Welcome to TalkFeeleez the official blog for Feeleez- tools for emotional education
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For a little background on our family and this blog check our What Is This? page.
Follow the HOME button on the lefthand sidebar to go to Feeleez homepage.
For a little background on our family and this blog check our What Is This? page.
When the sun came out and the grass greened up and school let out I was like: AAAH, summer! But when the girls started arguing about the polly pockets, the blue ball, the pink ball, the couch cushion, and the bar stools from sunup to sundown I was like: ARG, summer!
Instead of keeping the peace during the hour before school and the handful of hours after school, the peace-keeping challenge was suddenly ALL DAY. Eeek. At one point I thought to mention this out loud. In as neutral a tone I could manage I said: Hey girls. You might want to consider that you guys are going to be together ALL DAY today, and ALL DAY the next day, and ALL DAY the next day and on and on. Keep that in mind when you are deciding whether or not something is worth fighting about.
Strangely enough they did seem to think about it and the fighting lost it's razor edge. It's as though they became further invested in their relationship.
And when they did get into fights and needed my help I tried to remind myself of the same thing. We were all going to be together all day and all the other days so it would behoove us parents to invest in the relationships involved as well. Instead of smoothing things over just long enough to get through the before and after school hours it's worth it to dig in and get to the bottom of things.
Worth it yes, yet at the same time not always what I want to be doing at any given moment. When Xi offered to help Echo with her belt and Echo ignored her and came to me instead and Xi started crying and Echo started steeling herself to continue doing what she wanted to do, I wasn't thrilled by any means. Sometimes I want it just to stop and I don't want to get involved. Sometimes I want to go back to what I was doing pretty darn badly.
But this is what I am here to do.
So I started out rote:
You really wanted to help her huh? You're pretty mad and sad about that? You didn't like it that she didn't answer you?
You really didn't want her help huh? You didn't even want to give her an answer huh?
How boring I sound even to myself! But I got some nods of agreement and a look of relief that I actually was involving myself and that somehow things would be addressed. I rubbed backs. I stood there quietly waiting for something to shift. Then I got curious.
It's amazing what happens at this point. Empathy + Curiosity = WOW.
Xi what happens for you when you help someone?
I got a lot of "I don't knows", which is Xi's go-to answer under pressure, but I kept asking questions. When I asked her what color her helping-others feeling is she couldn't answer, but when Echo piped up with the color her not-wanting-help feeling is Xi suddenly came to life. As it turns out, when Xi gets the chance to help someone else it's pretty much the best feeling in the world to her. It's a pale, warm coral color and it hums in her heart in a magnificent way. When her help is turned down by another that helping-feeling gets usurped by a dark, horrible one. It's color is a green-brown, like the vapor from Cruella DeVille's smoldering cigarette. This feeling is heavy and vengeful.
We moved to the Feeleez poster next and worked through Echo's feelings about being helped by someone. I thought maybe there was something about feeling grown up and not wanting her sister to parent her, so I poked around in that spot. Nope nothing. With more time at the poster Echo started crying and explained that for her it feels like if she accepts help from someone other than her mom her mom isn't her mom as much. Being helped by me is the same as being mothered by me, being mothered is the same as having a mom. So if she gets help from someone other than me, her mind does the math and ends up with NO MOM.
Xi and I looked at each other with bugged-out eyes. In fact at this point Xi said: Wow! I didn't know that was part of it. I though she was just being mean.
For Xi: giving help = wonderful joy. Being denied the chance to help = black anger.
For Echo: receiving help = no mom.
Suddenly the belt incident became something so much more for us all. For me it went from an annoying, pointless, disruptive sibling squabble to something of far greater importance and I was so glad I chose to invest. There at the poster with Xi and Echo there wasn't a compact happy ending. We didn't have a tidy idea that might solve this problem in the future but we did have a deep understanding of the emotional landscape behind such a trivial event. The girls were helped by the process alone and had certainly moved on from where they were during the fight. They were now on the same team. They were serious allies equipped with new knowledge of one another's hearts.
Later when Xi asked Echo if she could help her read a book, Echo turned her down, but in deference to Xi's feelings she explained with extreme tenderness: Well Xi? This time I really wanted mama to help me... but when we are done you could help me with the books in this stack! I have a whole bunch that I picked out. Okay?
And with that I was back to: AAAH, summer!
She's doing well.
We are super lucky because we have a friend who has nurtured a million birds back to life/health and she has our backs. I've been texting and FB messaging to pepper her with questions. She thinks our girl (at least we think she's a girl) is not a baby but a young adult. Not old enough to be super freaked out by our attentions but old enough to have been out in the world on her own.
And last night Janet brought us the book pictured above and also deer tongue and Hungarian partridge. I never thought I'd be stoked about slicing up deer tongue. But can you picture this? Me hunkered down in the chicken run holding open the beak of this bird while my family ever so carefully drops canned catfood into this birds mouth and every so often some of that gag-yourself-disgusting "meat" dripping on my hands and knees? Day after day? F-ing blech. So the deer tongue, though tough and covered in tastebuds and part of a cute animal, was seriously welcome.
On the crow's first morning with us I slipped part of a sock over her wing to keep it stabilized, feeling proudly like a veterinarian. She ripped that off within minutes. Ooops. Then I bandaged her by wrapping her hurt wing and strapping it to her body. That one lasted three days. So this morning I got serious and studied the book Janet brought. I layed out all my supplies and with my two eager little assistants seriously got to work. I made a splint out of cardboard! I love that part. I also followed the instructions which allowed me to support the wing while still giving her enough range of motion to balance herself.
Every time we feed her or bandage her she lays perfectly calm in my lap. It's like she has given herself completely over to these humans and her hopes of recovery. I find that part so touching in that cute/sad kind of way.
I've been feeling pretty great these days. I keep texting photos like this to my sister and she types back: "You are so loving your life right now.". She's right. And I know probably %80 percent of that is due to summer in Montana. You know when, like in a fourth grade history lesson, or a night when you're tripping out, you try to imagine what earth was like before people? Or maybe the covered wagon era? The image that always came to my mind during those moments is what, as I found later, Montana is like in the summer.
Fat blue skies with clouds like ships sailing past. Big green valleys. Purple mountains. Clear happy rivers.
This shit is unreal.
Within the neighborhoods it's downright Mayberry. Sprinklers, ch, ch, ch-ing. Green lawns that smell super grassy. Empty streets. Long evenings. Elderly people in shorts.
I also had a perfect birthday. I made seven potent wishes by throwing rocks in my beloved river. These wishes, man I tell you, they had thirty-seven years of clarity in them. Plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop. Grin.
Also, with the first glance down at my feet, in a spot I've stood one thousand times before, found this:
There are heartrocks and then there are heartrocks. This one is perfect on both sides. Happy Birthday to me.
Romy made me a cake. It was chocolate with chocolate chips, an apricot/peach filling, and dulce de leche frosting. YES. After we celebrated she piled a huge chunk into a giganto tub for me to take home and I ate some that night, even though I was full, because it was so good and it was my birthday.
For dinner Nathan, Echo and I biked downtown to the sushi restaurant. We ordered wine and huge platters of sashimi. Echo drew love notes to nature and ate whatever fish I put on her plate. That girl ate probably ten different types of fish, octopus, and roe. And the Universe was really smiling on me because it just so happened to be First Friday - the monthly art walk where people mill about stopping at galleries to view art, drink wine, and snag snacks, AND the windows of our restaurant were mirrored on the outside. Let me just tell you what this means: a parade of folks in their going-out wear traipsing past our window and touching up their hair, lighting cigarettes, and kissing. Serious people watching heaven.
June 3rd. Henry's birthday! He's old enough to go to Hogwarts! Just kidding, Henry is a total muggle, there isn't a wizarding bone in his body. His pleasures are simple; sleep, meals, sniffs, walks, scavenged crumbs, and barks at the fence fill his days to the brim.
Oh how I love him!
I thought I should be fair and show a little contrast.
Yes, the last few days Echo has been diving deep into the land of colorful language, pulling out shits, fucks, and buckets at every opportunity. BUT, the rest of the time? Well let's just say her interest in vocabulary doesn't stop at cuss words.
Whether she's crouched on the floor with plastic figurines, admiring the new apricot fruit in the yard, or brushing the dog's coat, there is a continuous and constant narrative tumbling from her lips. I decided to jot a few down.
"The queen went first and the rest followed suit..."
"...looked at her reproachfully..."
"...she returned triumphantly..."
"...the brave swimmer charged..."
"I made a wobbly retreat...
"...delicate and painful objects strewn amidst the blankets..."
"...convincing though the mother was that she HATED her daughter, there remained one truth..."
(This one kills me! What's the one truth???)
"...she took her sword and usually brandished it, often slicing people..."
"...madam is specific about what she wants. She has made it clear, what she wants..."
"...they joined in with a chorus of “pick me! pick me!”..."
Delicious terms litter her every day world:
"Look mom I drew a landscape with clouds on the horizon!"
"Mom, I told him my age and now he’s engaged in ages."
"I’m putting these in a makeshift basket!"
Yesterday she said: "Mom? When I'm a grown-up I'm not going to have a job. I'm going to stay home and make books. I'm going to write a book called The Rise and Fall of Moonbear Kingdom! And other books, like a book called All About Spiders. I'm going to stay home and make books and be with my kids."
Yep. That sounds just about right.
Look at this sweet angelic face.
Now spend a few minutes as a fly on the wall at our house these days and you might hear, straight from the mouth of this angelic babe:
Damn shit bucket fucks!
ALL DAY LONG
Out of cocoa ingredients?
Damn shit in a bucket fuckballs!
Little bit of spilled water?
Going to sleep at the end of a long day?
I'm tired as hell but I'm also hell shit thirsty. And damn that! Fucking shit hell... grumble, grumble... thirsty.
Excited about a new turn in a imaginative game with your sister?
Struggling to find a new engaging activity?
Bored fucking bored balls, bored fucking bored balls, bored fucking bored balls...
That's the theme music around these parts. Echo is sowing her wild oats in the swearing department. From sunup to sundown any opportunity for a well-placed expletive is seized wholeheartedly. Echo is no stranger to colorful language, I posted about it the first time here and stirred up a little cyber-ire. And you don't have to look far to discover where she might have picked up these choice words as her parents certainly let fly when need arises, but the commitment to fill her sentences chock-full of as many shit, fucks, and craps as she can is all her own.
I'm not worried about it.
Last night I made a neutral comment, saying that I noticed she was using a lot of swear words these days. I asked her why.
Echo: Well... I just feel cool... and I like the words shitfuckcrapbucket.
Me: Is it hard for you not to say them out in the world?
Me: But you don't say them...
Echo: Yeah, 'cuz people wouldn't like that. And... it would kind of be like pulling my pants down in public and shouting: LOOK AT MY VAGINA!.
Me: You mean... inappropriate?
This is why I am not worried. This girl's sense of empathy for others is seriously heightened. Her care for how others feel is so acute that she can unleash shitcrapfuckbucket a hundred times at home and reign it in completely in public. And the best part is that rules have nothing to do with it! We didn't have to threaten her with a mouth full of soap or give her the evil eye in public, with a little information over the years about some people feeling sensitive to particular words, she has chosen to self-regulate. She even goes so far as to include idiot, stupid, and dumb from her public vocabulary - something that I think we all might consider even though they don't land on the official "swear word" list.
At home she checked in with each of us individually, to see if we would mind a spurt of serious cussing, and having gotten clearance, she is letting loose.
Darn shit bucket fucks.
As an avenue toward more empathy and fewer rules, check out our emotional learning tools on the Feeleez site.
Here's an example with just one child. (This is the adult end of the conversation):
Ex: "Oh darn. (a) That's how you're feeling huh? (b) Yeah I can see that, that makes sense. (a) You feel like this one too? (b) Oh wow. That's hard. (a) You were just playing happily and the cat came along and bit you on the arm? (c) Darn-nit. (a) That's not what you wanted at all is it. (a) You didn't do anything to the cat you were just playing. (c) You didn't want to be bitten. (c) You like the cat, you weren't trying to bother it. (c) And then he just bit you for no reason at all! (c) What a bummer huh?"
Here's an example when two children are involved. (This is the adult end of the conversation):
"Oh shoot. You guys are having a hard time huh? Which ones do you feel like Abby... This one? Oh yeah. This one too? And this one? Wow, that's a tough combo huh? What about you Nellie. Which ones are you feeling like... Oh, that one huh? This one too? Oh, sure, I can see that."
"So Abby you were playing and it seemed like from your perspective that Nellie just grabbed that toy away from you huh? You were so mad about that. Yeah, that makes sense. Sure. And you were so mad that you just hit her huh? You were so mad. You don't want someone to take away the things you are using. It doesn't feel good. Sounds like you were frustrated too, like this drawing, am I right? Wow. Yeah, that's hard."
"And Nellie you saw this toy just lying there and it looked completely available. You didn't know Abby was playing with it. Were you so surprised when Abby hit you? Like this drawing here? And it hurt too? I bet. What a terrible surprise to suddenly be hit. Did you get mad then? You did? Is that why you picked this drawing here? Sure, that makes sense. You don't like being hit at all. You want to be able to play in safety and not have to worry about being hurt. When she hit you you were you mad, like this drawing? Or sad, like this one... A bit of a combo huh. Oh darn you guys that sounds so hard."
This stage can last anywhere from a couple minutes to several minutes. As a rule of thumb we recommend staying here, even silently, for AT LEAST two solid minutes.
4. Look for signs that emotions have shifted.
Facial expressions, body postures, lighter spirits, joking, and physical affection are all signs that emotions are starting to shift. This may be the end of the process! Often children, at this point, have moved completely on and are unburdened by their previous emotions. They are ready for solutions and cooperation and affection. At our house we often ask if our girls need to talk more, and if not we seal it with a hug and carry on.
If it seems that things have not shifted, return to step 3, or try 4a.
4a. Ask your child which images on the poster she would rather feel like.
Ex: "Yes, I can imagine that. You want to feel good and smiling and happy. You'd much rather feel like this drawing, or this one. Of course. Darn. You don't like where you are. You can imagine what these drawings feel like and you want that. Totally."
4c. Gently ask your child what he needs in order to feel more like the drawings he chose. Offer ideas as well.
Ex: "What do you think you might need to feel the way you'd like?"
Wait here for several beats before jumping to solutions.
"Do you think food might help...?"
"Would you like a long hug...?"
"Do you want help coming up with an idea for the issue...?"
"Do you want some time just to be quiet...?"
Your child may grasp for one of one these options and may not. If you are having trouble figuring out some ideas to offer think about what need your child might have and offer a way to fill that need. Does she need reassurance? Sustenance? Does she need connection? For a full list of human needs visit this page.
5. Wait. When these steps seem to fail, or if your child isn't moving as quickly as you think he should, just wait. Remain in an empathetic stance, holding and hugging your child if they allow, and wait. We like to think of this position as a big, padded, boring envelope in which to surround your child. Children, unlike adults are comfortable with long pauses, they do not need you to fill the air with encouragement or maxims. Children in this state need only your empathy (even silent) and presence. With enough patience the feelings will pass.
NOTE: Absent from this dialog is: blame, punishment, praise, lesson-teaching, or parental opinions. This is a space exclusively created for the the processing of emotions. If you wish to give information about the rules of the house, point out who "started it", or mete out consequences this should be done (if at all) after the emotional processing is complete. This is to ensure that a. your words and logic can even be heard and understood, and b. your children feel safe and comfortable enough to express their true feelings while at the poster.
To order your own Feeleez poster for your home, office, or classroom please visit www.store.feeleez.com. The poster is $15 and printed on recycled paper using soy-based ink. We'd love to send you one.
We all wish we had superpowers - superhuman strength or the power of flight, and I'm here to tell you that you do. This is how you unleash your powers:
1. Invite your squirmy, wide-awake child into your bed in the middle of the night.
2. Work at drifting back off to sleep despite the disturbance.
3. Hear the words: I think I'm going to barf.
This happened last night. Echo joined us, which I didn't notice until I was woken because I was in trouble for pulling the covers off myself and making her cold. I don't know how she could be cold because I was on FIRE just from being near her. I switched to the outside position and figured it would be dreamtime for us all. Simple as that. Nope, not so simple. Echo was awake and talking and squirming and my sleep stayed shallow at best - so shallow in fact that my waking reality mixed with the dreaming one and soon my experience was that of being pressed on and smothered by a flock of hot, talking seagulls.
When Echo complained of her belly hurting I told her to lie on her left side. When she farted I thought Ah, there we go. That should do the trick. Helloooooo sleep! Nope. I heard those dreaded words.
"I think I'm going to barf" is the world's greatest game changer. We went from mild middle of the night disturbance to all-out emergency state. My superpowers kicked in full force and in less than a tenth of a second I went from prone, to standing with a six-year old child cradled in my arms. From hazy, hot seagulls to standing panic. Of course we didn't make it.
We really didn't make it.
In hindsight the cradle position may not have been a good idea as the projectile vomiting found its target in my face. Full-on barf shower sprayed in my face and then what didn't land there rained back down upon our heads. Nathan awoke to sounds of oh god, oh god, oh god! Bless his heart, he had no idea what was happening as I was completely blind and also completely incapable of describing anything clearly, desperate as I was.
Full shower for two at 4am.
And holy hell I appreciate having a partner. Knowing that I will emerge from the shower to find a bedroom de-barfed and ready for sleep, is possibly the greatest gift one can receive.
Anyway... see how simple it is? Barf in the bed = superhuman powers.
The best argument for co-sleeping or the worst? Discuss.
On the route to school there is a lady. She's a crossing guard. I don't know anything about her. We never interact except to wave hellos as I drive or bike past her post. But I see her A LOT, in part because her job is to be in that spot and I pass by a few times a day, but also because even when I pass by that intersection in the middle of the day she's there. She stays there all day.
She arrives in the morning, rain, snow or shine and holds up her stop sign for children and parents, then when the pedestrian traffic has died down she sits in her car. All. Day. At 3pm she's back at her spot. She knits, she does crosswords, she reads.
I've noticed my estimation of this stranger's life varies greatly day to day. Sometimes I feel sad that she's alone all day at an intersection, other times I envy her the quiet and solitude. I've been puzzled by my diverse responses and then recently it hit me. Her life is seen through my life. Everyone's life is seen through everyone else's life. The personal lens is unavoidable. It's also why people piss us off some days and delight us others. It's always all about us. All about me.
On the mornings when Xi and Echo are arguing over who gets to check and see if the dogs at a house on our route are visible in the window or not, I don't feel sorry for the crossing guard. I kid you not, my girls fight over who gets to say "Brown puppy in the window!". At those times crossing guard lady's silent vehicle and crossword look really fucking good.
On the afternoons when I feel the ache of missing my family, when that old wound opens and pulses with longing, I feel so sad about the crossing guard, so sad that she too must not have her mom or dad or sister nearby to visit during her break. Because otherwise she would, at least through the lens of my life she would.
When money is tight I feel comraderie with the crossing guard. On those days I assume she is budgeting her money and the long trip across town to her apartment is out of the question. When the lilacs are blooming and a warm breeze hits my face I'm certain that this lady, this crossing guard has the most serene and peaceful life of anyone on the planet. A good book, a purpose, and time.
I'm all over the place about this lady.
To be honest I am all over the place in general these days, at turns so sure of myself and place and then so unsure. So uncertain. I took a little break from this blog to think things over. Am I a blogger? Am I a parenting consultant? Am I an artist? Am I a writer? And do I have to choose just one in order to provide for my family? And shouldn't I know this by now? It's been giving me grief because I also want to be a good parent and a homeschool teacher and have a clean house. You can see the struggle.
And I'm not going to pretend that Echo's sixth birthday doesn't have anything to do with it. She is the blood of my blood and her milestones are my own. Her life has been six years long. Six years! Somehow the fact that it's happening, this time passing thing, to someone that I am looking at almost every minute of the day means I can't deny it actually is ocurring. Six years really did pass.
And that means they have passed in my life too.
Turning six, that's not a baby anymore. It makes me look at my life and my choices and tilt my head. It also makes me tender. Echo. She's just perfect. She is everything I would wish for a family. She is everything I wish for myself. It's a strange mix of hardly being able to believe this incredible being exists and the sense that of course she exists, she is the very air I breathe, the molecules that float in and out and dance and shimmer with my every inhalation. And now she's six. Her cheeks are slimmer. Her words are bigger and complicated. Her smell is different. She has friends and ideas and opinions. She was a speck and now she is this... this.
It makes me want to cry with the joy and wonder of it all. And the pain too.