wisdom from the classics: jane eyre

Monday, February 8, 2016

I probably read this book much too early but in a way I'm glad because it made such a searing impression on me. Never before had I heard someone so perfectly describe the inner turmoil that goes on inside our little minds. Even at a young age I remember feeling melancholy and reading this book was like climbing inside a dark rain cloud and sobbing until until your eyes had been emptied of their tears. Re-reading it as an adult I was struck by what an incredible book this is for little girls - to help mold independence of thought, confidence and a strong spirit.

And in case any of you are struggling with what to write in your Valentine's day card there is so much inspiration in the pages of this stunning book:

“I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.”

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

“If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved of you and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.”

“I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”

“Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear.”

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”

“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last.”

“I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitments, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into it's expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst it's perils.”

“It is hard work to control the workings of inclination and turn the bent of nature; but that it may be done, I know from experience. God has given us, in a measure, the power to make our own fate: and when our energies seem to demand a sustenance they cannot get--when our will strains after a path we may not follow--we need neither starve from inanition, not stand still in despair: we have but to seek another nourishment for the mind, as strong as the forbidden fruit it longed to taste--and perhaps purer; and to hew out for the adventurous foot a road as direct and broad as the one Fortune has blocked up against us, if rougher than it.”

Charlotte Brontë

on trusting a toddler

Thursday, February 4, 2016

I think these days some of our ideas about parenting would be perceived as "old school" by some. We believe in discipline. We believe in having children that are respectful towards adults, are polite and well mannered. We believe in having our kids do chores as soon as they are able to (now that Birdie is three she in charge of cleaning up her toys, occasionally helping with the dishes and making her bed in the morning). We believe in never asking our toddler if she wants to go to bed, take a nap, eat or play; we tell her. Discipline with Birdie has been especially difficult since the very beginning as she is a very strong willed and precocious child. But we've stuck to it and we've done ok.
I wanted to share this post because there were many times when we were in the thick of it, so to speak, and just feeling lost and helpless as far as how to go forward and what the right thing to do was. We read everything we could get our hands on and asked everyone we knew for advice in our quest to unlock the mind of a toddler. There are two specific lessons that we picked up that have been immensely helpful in creating a peaceful home and growing a rewarding relationship with our daughter.

Tip #1 "Address the need NOT the behavior"
This was a huge eye opener for me. We went through a stage with Birdie, actually we went through it several times, where she would tantrum three, sometimes four times a day. And I'm not talking about some crying and foot stomping, I'm talking exorcism level, hour long and completely draining kind of tantrums. It was breaking all of us. But we felt that the right thing to do was to punish the behavior (by punish I mean talking to her sternly and putting her in time out in her room). It wasn't working, at all. Then we started doing some research (namely reading a lot of Janet Lansbury) and we realized that she was not simply misbehaving she was going through some serious internal struggles that she either didn't understand or couldn't verbalize. Well wouldn't you know, as soon as we started approaching her with empathy, love and affection during these "episodes" we were able to shorten their duration and pretty much eliminate them altogether within two days. She will still have these sorts of episodes every few months and basically what we do now is just hold her and talk to have in a calming soft voice. It breaks my heart because sometimes she will literally dig her nails into me as she just cries and cries. Being a toddler is hard. For real.

Tip #2 "Trust your toddler to do the right thing" 
You know that hokey saying "speak truth" or "speak light" upon your life? Well my dad was a big fan of that long before Oprah made it a part of her repertoire. Even as teenagers he would always have "discussions" with us about relationships, drugs, sex, alcohol, etc and yet end it with "but I know you will make the right decision." LOL. And the ghost of his disappointed face haunted me all through high school and college and resulted in me earning a reputation for being fairly straight-laced. He started speaking to Birdie in this way pretty much as soon as she could talk and I would roll my eyes in return thinking "she's a kid, good luck thinking she knows what the right thing to do is." And yet... And yet I started coming across child psychologists and others backing up dad's theory and a few months ago I decided to give it a try. I stopped getting involved in fights between the kids, I stopped telling Birdie that she "must or must not do x,y, or z immediately," I stopped forcing the right response from her. Instead I would calmly suggest that she "share the toy with Teddy/return the toy to Teddy/not whine/not be demanding/not be rude." I would tell her that I believe in her and I believe that she will do the right thing and then I would step away. And you know what? After about a month of doing this now 8 out of 10 times she really does do the right thing!! She'll even come and tell me "mama I shared my toy with Teddy" or "mama look I'm waiting patiently!" And it has improved our relationship immensely and I find myself raising my voice so much less often. I can just see it in her eyes - how empowering this has been for her.

We're all still learning here and we are just on the cusp on beginning to discipline Teddy (which is turning out to be a whole different ball game both because of his gender (I think) and his personality). I've just always felt that the more information I have about this the better chance I have at not screwing things up. And it's funny because I think good parenting advice can come from experts, books and journals but it can also come from an old lady at the check out line of the grocery store, your neighbor or a fellow mama. I don't think I have all the answers and I'm always seeking advice because I think raising kids is hands-down one of the most difficult and grueling things I have ever gone through. I'm taking all the help I can get!

banana nut muffins

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I'm always looking to bake something that the kids will eat too these days and banana muffins seem to always do the trick. I wanted something easy that I could throw together in the morning and have on hand for snack time. 
I seriously underestimated how much we would all love these as they were all gone a day after I made them. Oh well... guess I'll have to make another batch :). 

2 mashed bananas
1/2 c almond milk
2 1/2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 large egg
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c quick-cooking oats
1/4 c granulated white sugar
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c chopped nuts
some sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl mix the bananas, milk, oil, egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl whisk flour and remaining ingredients.

Stir the flour mixture into the banana mixture until they are just combined. Add the nuts and fold in gently.

I made six regular sized muffins and eight mini muffins. Sprinkle the tops with some sugar for an extra delicious crunchy top.

Bake for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Birdie could barely contain her excitement asking me every two minutes "are they ready???"

taking stock vol. V

Monday, February 1, 2016

The last time I did one of these it was the beginning of November and we had all the wonderful holidays on the horizon. Now it's the first day of February and I am finally feeling like we're out of the horrible dark woods of January. This morning I could hear birds chirping, the was a palpable warmth in the air and hearts and chocolates are everywhere! Can't go wrong with hearts and chocolates.

These lists always seem to remind me of what's good and help me get excited about the future. So here we go!

making: messes. I decided to relax a little on the "clean house" thing and let the kids, and sometimes myself, just have so fun.
cooking: pasta and pot roasts. As soon as it gets cold all I want is ALL the carbs!! Mmmm...
drinking: tea. This one is my favorite.
wanting: a hot tub. I'm serious. We enjoyed the heck out of one at the cabin a few weeks ago and now we're obsessed.
looking: forward to spring. Since we're probably not getting snow I just want winter to be over already.
wasting: water. Between the laundry for four people, daily baths for the kids and running the dishwasher it's kind of insane.
sewing: nothing at the moment but I have some projects I would like to get working on soon.
wishing: time would stand still long enough for me to enjoy my babies being little.
enjoying: the new season of Serial. I heard some people don't like it because it's not as "did he or didn't he?" but I find the nuanced material this season much more thought provoking.
waiting: for a certain something...
liking: the idea of not having a huge party for my 30th but a getaway with my husband instead.
wondering: what this next chapter of my life will look like.
loving: slippers. Not earth shattering news but they seriously improve my quality of life.
hoping: I can achieve all the goals I set for myself this year.
marveling: at everything we've accomplished in eight short years of marriage. To think it all started with thinking each other cute!
needing: nothing. I'm still enjoying all my Christmas presents.
smelling: my new perfume, a gift from my mum, and loving it!! Always been a Tocca girl.
wearing: these mittens every day. I can't stand being cold. They're so cute I got them in pink and white! They're on a crazy sale right now too!
listening: to Serial.
noticing: the passage of time. For some reason my thirtieth and the fact that Birdie starts preschool in one year has really been weighing on me.
knowing: nothing really. Does anyone know anything at the beginning of the year?
thinking: about so many things I've had trouble falling asleep lately.
feeling: anxious and excited. I feel like this year has the potential to be amazing.
bookmarking: sewing projects.
opening: new doors. Theoretical and literal ones.
giggling: over the strange things that come out of Birdie's mouth these days. For example, she was walking laps in the hot tub this weekend and then stops and says "Do you think there's a point in me going around again??" #dead