The cool folks over at Wee Share are giving away a Feeleez game and poster. Follow the link and enter the drawing to win!
There is a grant contest happening right now, Chase bank is giving $250,000 each to twelve small businesses. In order to be in the running Feeleez has to collect 250 votes. Will you help us?
If you click on this: Mission Small Business, login using Facebook (I know a pain in the ass), click support, find FEELEEZ and click "vote", we have a fighting chance!
If you want to know how we will use the money email me and I will send you our business plan. The bottom line is that with $250K a lot more kids will have Feeleez to play with.
We have one of those yoga balls at our house. It's not as big as the one in this photo but its big enough for the girls to push it in front of them as they run, or sit on it and bounce, or launch themselves onto and off of it cowabunga style. They love the blue ball and when we have to be inside for months on end it's pretty awesome for them to have something like it to get out their physical energy. My sister and I had a similar ball at gramma's house when we were younger. It was a giant beach ball that we could use to transport ourselves from room to room in her single story house by laying on top of the huge thing and pushing along the walls. We loved our big ball too.
But as the parent? Sometimes I think I hate the blue ball. That sucker is at the epicenter of soooooo many fights. At night as a self-preservation method I hide it in the guest bedroom or deep in the girls' closet. But they're on to me now and when they get that blue ball hankering they go to the guest room to get the blue ball out of what I guess has become it's official storage spot. This morning, before the sun was up and with the clock counting down to the time we had to bundle up and get Xi to school- that period of maternal high-stress greater than that found in any board room in the country I'm sure, Echo grabbed the blue ball.
I was like uh-uh.
If you read this blog you know I am empathy's biggest fan and use it as my main parenting technique. I crouch down, I discover underlying feelings and needs, I summon patience and wait. But all of that only works because Nathan and I have also established ourselves as captains of this family team. And sometimes, as captains and "the ones officially in charge" the answer to blue ball requests at 745am is hell-fucking-no. I didn't say it that way of course, although I would under certain circumstances, I instead explained that I didn't want the blue ball in the mix before school because I wanted them to focus on eating breakfast since we only had a little time before departing. But it wasn't a discussion, it was just how things were gonna be. Then Xi came downstairs and without any hesitation went straight into the guest room for the blue ball and I had to repeat myself.
Then after breakfast, with thirty seconds left on the before-school clock they went for the ball again and I added that breakfast priorities weren't the only reason blue ball was blacklisted, but that I also (maybe mostly) didn't want to take the time for fights and discussions at that juncture. Back into the guest room it went (guess I'll have to find a new hiding spot).
Writing this I remember when our house was smaller, one and a half bedrooms, with awkward doors opening into doors etc. Then there weren't any hiding places as the little house didn't even have a closet, so I wedged the blue ball next to the office/computer/art/homework table. But if it wasn't wedged that sucker would somehow follow a person around. I don't know if it was gravity or electric charge but it was darn creepy to see it inching along after you. It was always there. Boy, this blue ball and I have a history.
Anyway, blue ball winds up emerging from the guest room when I cook dinner. There is a silent bell that tolls that only my children hear and it means it's time for them to get really irritable, physical, and loud. The soundtrack to dinner prep.
Now one way of handling this time period is to tell a different mental story than that last paragraph. oops. I do that whenever I can, but if I haven't and the irritation rises and the girls come to me with blue ball disputes this is how I handle it.
1. I panic. I forget that I don't have to have an answer and panic as they approach because I don't know who should have a turn or who had the last turn or who was having a turn but only took a break etc.
2. I remember. I remember that I can listen and empathize and things will sort themselves out.
They approach and say "Mama will you help us?" and I say "Yes" but I don't do or say anything else. Then they loiter and fiddle and start telling me "what happened". Now this part actually isn't important in the end. The point is that they both want the blue ball and neither is happy with how things are going. But I never rush them through this part as it seems to be cathartic for them. I nod my head and say: "Oh yeah, totally!" and paraphrase: "Right you were just taking a break, you weren't finished with your turn. I get it.", making sure to do that with both girls so that the message is no one is "wrong", we're just listening to one another's experience.
3. I summarize. I say some encapsulating thing like: "Okay. So it sounds like you both are really enjoying the blue ball and you both want a turn huh?" They say yes and then they ask me what we should do and I throw it right back and say "yeah, what do we do guys?"
4. The poster. If there isn't any movement toward ideas or resolution at this point I, or one of the girls, will suggest the Feeleez poster. We trundle over and I stand there while each girl points to some characters that describe their feelings. I say "uh huh" a lot. And I just stand there as a witness. They just stand there for a while too.
5. I wait.
6. Poster round two. Often at this point, just seeing one another's feelings in plain view shifts the dynamic so much that one will jump up and down with a good idea, one that I would never have thought feasible, and they race off, back into the game. If this doesn't immediately happen I might ask a question like: "How would you guys rather be feeling?" and they point all over again.
7. Wait, witness, nod. I repeat my part, which really is so minimal that every time I think surely this won't work. And then it does. It does. AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN. They decide to scrap the game entirely, or one decides to give the other the turn, or the other has a brilliant new game idea, and they run off as friends again. There is something about the neutrality of the process and the chance to step into each other's shoes that dissolves the wall of antagonism.
8. I go back to making dinner.
It isn't rocket science. It isn't even particularly involved. And let's be honest, if it wasn't the blue ball it would be the magnetic paper doll's sparkly crown, or the yellow beluga. Thank goodness I don't have to know the answers. Just nod, empathize, rinse and repeat.
I think I mentioned that I made a whole lot of fairy food over the last couple of months. I made so much that in between the first holiday fair and the next holiday fair I could relax since I didn't have to hustle to replenish my inventory. That meant when nine pm rolled around I was at Nathan's side watching the latest installment of our science documentary without a single bit of clay in my hands. Coincidentally I was also snoozing in Nathan's lap by ten thirty, the last several weeks catching up with me while the lack of creative stimulation sucker punched me. But it felt good! What an accomplishment, I tell ya.
And it also felt strange. By the second post-holiday-fair night I had the clay out again. I made this:
Nathan looked at me with genuine concern for my sanity.
Withdrawal does make one crazy, but isn't it cute???
I have all of these little baskets, and clay, and well... TIME (at least comparatively speaking) and doing nothing just feels way too foreign. So I made these guys, fairy babies of sorts, that I know are going to fly off the holiday fair shelves into the hands of little girls that don't think they are weird at all. I made brown ones too. And little flannel blankies that fasten with velcro. And they each have their own basket for naps.
You should see their tiny, plump little bums. It's almost too much.
And that's how I'm handling my transition from the fairy food world to the real. Along with grandparent visits that just keep on rollin' (bye Granpop and hello Grammie!), dog walks in snow so white it looks fake, stacks and stacks of Feeleez packages, and of course the thrice weekly recess duty.
In fact, I have been so much in my own world lately that with the close of the e-course ( a resounding success!) my brain just kept right on trekking and before I knew it I was jotting down the framework for Parenting Teaching With Empathy in the classroom. Holy moly the possibilities are so exciting. So exciting that, because of my own little world bubble I mentioned, somehow without any preparation or prelude, between shoving little elementary bums on the swing, I blurted out to the director of Xi's school that I'd like to give a presentation on applying parenting with empathy principles to the classroom.
I said this off-hand and matter of factly and without an ounce of awareness of how presumptuous or critical that notion might sound to the director of a school, a woman who has been working with children for decades. Oops.
But she's interested.
I am giddy with the thought of school children receiving little doses of empathy throughout the day. I imagine their little hearts swelling and settling with satisfaction and contentment. They still will have to hold hands in line, clear their work space, and all the other little "shoulds" of the school day, but when they melt down or resist or drag their little feet? They might just be met by an empathetic adult and what a difference that will be, not only for them but for the teachers and co-students and parents and well, the rest of the world too.
From the micro to the macro, that's how my days have been going lately. Little inch long babies accompanied by continent-wide thoughts and ideas. If I were to map it out, how parenting and miniature pretend food intertwine to make e-courses, parenting theory, and emotional educational revolution make sense, I couldn't. But somehow it does.
I am "trusting the process of my life", as a wise woman once advised, and who knows where it will go.
ps. There is a fair bit of web buzz about this post lately. Want to weigh in?
It's been two days and I'm still sore!
We have had the ultimate good fortune in keeping our Feeleez shipping headquarters above our friend's children's clothing shop downtown. It's been a really fun alliance and exceedingly convenient and good-vibey for us. But alas, times are a-changing and our friends are off to new ventures. So that meant... moving.
Here is Echo right after we moved into Blackbird two years ago. A baby!
We stayed in denial for most of August and then as the thirty first came around the corner we started to look at each other like "Oh yeah. That whole "move your entire business thing" that we have been ignoring We should probably deal with that." Fortunately our luck was still singing because before we knew it we had new digs at another cool mama's shop. Happy Mama Yoga. Behind this rad yoga studio lies a warren of artist studios and the perfect little room to house Feeleez games, buttons, posters, and shipping supplies. We feel so great about shifting from one awesome local to another.
But not the literal part of "shifting". My goodness those boxes are heavy!
I have said many times over that if I knew how much I didn't know about starting and running a business like this then I never would have started. Fortunately we were totally naive and plunged in head first. If not we wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn as much as we did, and kids around the world would not have Feeleez to help them through their lives. But I certainly wasn't picturing lifting boxes up and down starirs when Kris asked me so long ago if I would do some drawings about feelings.
Last time a shipment arrived on a cold winter day in January, a big truck pulled up to the curb and parked. See, one of the things we learned is that trucking companies deliver "to your door", meaning the curb, but are in no way obligated to lift anything off the ruck. Our driver was unhealthy, feeble, not so smart, and wasn't about to move even one box an inch. So our crew of mamas and Nathan, had quite a larger task than we imagined. Most of us had babies, or at least toddlers that were still attached like babies. It took us most of an entire day.
This time moving day loomed again and although we have about half the boxes we moved that other time we still knew it was going to be big, and heavy. Plus, Nathan was going to be working and no one else seemed to be chomping at the bit to help. Hmn. So we decided not to worry about it. We decided to imagine it happening smoothly and easily. Kris and I, along with her friend and neighbor Ethan, met at nine am with our four kids in tow and got to work. We smiled and heaved and smiled and heaved. We were equipped with snacks and a weak handcart.
And we did it in three hours.
We feel burly.
And our kids played in the van mostly. Such a gauge of how time has passed. Last time Echo wouldn't let me put her down long enough to haul a box. This time she played in the van for three hours without a second thought. The van was such the hot spot that once, (maybe at box #30?), when I heaved a box within, Sascha refused to move from her perch. She sat sternly atop the very spot I needed. I didn't handle it well. Tired, noodly arms, and the certainty that I "needed" that exact spot meant that I didn't empathize or discuss. I moved her. And then she scratched me in the face and cried to her mom. I felt bad and embarassed. Especially embarassed when I overheard Kris telling Sascha that even people who love each other fight.
Fight? I don't fight with three-year olds do I? Guess I actually did.
Later, at the river I reminded Saschy of what happened between us and she said, I still love you!, with exuberance and joy. Phew.
Because that's how our business goes, stacked in between parenting this little tribe of children. We don't have babysitters, or hold meetings outside of the park or the river. We dreamed it as something we could do with our kids for other children. So even moving day was spliced with pb&js and kisses.
Three adults, four kids, three hours. Damn.
Echo watched the video about nursing in yesterday's post and wanted to make an updated version.
Oh empathy. How I Iove thee with all of my heart.
If you were a god I would be religious.
And luckily, we packed empathy in our suitcase and brought it with us. I use it as I watch my family and friends love Echo the way that feels right to them. Empathy for them, for the power with which they love her, helps me when they parent her in ways different than my own. Instead of launching in to an explanation of why we don't use "Good job!" as a dear family friend praises Echo's egg-hunting skills, I reach for empathy and relate to that person's need for connection, and hopes of doing a "Good Job" themselves. Later when my aunt tests Echo's knowledge of the number sequences and quizzes her about when she is starting kindergarten (she's homeschooled) empathy is my friend once again as I dig it out for Echo's confusion and my aunt's as well.
And I pull it out for myself during these interactions as well as various feelings bubble to the surface.
Empathy is in the mix.
Nathan drew it out on behalf of a fellow egg hunter who was miserable about not finding as many eggs for himself as the others had. After lengthy discussions of solutions, on behalf of several well-meaning family members, with no effect, Nathan simply kneeled down and honoured the little boy's feelings for a moment. Like magic his face cleared.
It is magic.
This morning Echo was destroyed because her grandpa wasn't in bed, as she had hoped to surprise him waking him up with kisses and snuggles. I felt myself tighten, irritated because my cheerful (crowd-pleasing) girl had become a clingy, crabby one, shunning all of grandpa's attempts to connect. I eventually, through empathy for myself for my whole set of feelings, gathered my wits and realized we needed a Feeleez poster, that Echo wasn't going to "move on" until the stupid grown-ups got it together to actually see and understand what she was feeling, instead of impatiently trying to shove her forward. We opened the laptop, pulled out the poster, and she chose the gritted teeth, red-faced girl, and the child with the hurt elbow as the kids she was feeling like. Duh. I said: Oh! Darn. and Grandpa laughed incredulously and with great pain, faced with what his actions (getting out of bed too early!) resulted in for his beloved, beloved grandchild. And that, folks, was enough.
She pointed, we saw, and now she is back in Grandpa's arms, throwing nuts for the squirrels.
My challenge to you all is for the next week to quit every single attempt to fix any of your child's feelings. If you bring the wrong juice to the table, if your child thinks you bought the wrong cereal, if your child is afraid of the spider on the wall, DO NOTHING EXCEPT RECOGNIZE his/her FEELINGS. If your boy or girl does not believe you that you see/feel/hear them well enough, use the poster so that there can be no mistake. Try this and see what happens for you, your child, and the relationship that lies in between.