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What makes for an expert parent?

I’m really excited about this Tuesday Tune In, friends. It’s about parents taking a page from sailors in order to figure out what makes for an expert parent. It was inspired by something a yoga instructor said in class this week. (Ok. It was Chase Connolly from my favorite studio.) I’ve been thinking about it ever since. And you will be, too.

He said, “Joy is technical.”

I said, “Huh?” (from my downdog.)

He gave the example of a sailor being caught in a storm. If the sailor is new and unskilled, then a storm could be a terrifying and traumatizing experience. However, if the sailor is an expert and has years of experience, then getting stuck in a storm might be exhilarating and maybe even a joyful challenge.

It made me think of parenting. I wondered: What makes for an expert parent? Is it the technique we gain from experience or is it something else?

Expert sailors (and parents) have learned their technique:

  • which bucket (bottle)to use
  • how to hold the wheel (baby) in the correct position
  • where the lifejackets (pacifiers) are hidden
  • when to fiddle with the rudder (humidifer)
  • how to tie a knot (cloth diaper)

But more than that, expert sailors (and parents) are defined by their EMOTIONAL technique. It’s not just about finding solutions, rather it’s about finding a state of mind. The expert does not get crazed by the storm.

Deep in a moment of crisis she knows to say to herself- I will get through this and it will be ok. Partly this comes from experience. She has learned that the storm will blow over and peace will follow.

But partly it is the work of cultivating a deep sense of confidence. It takes some effort to truly believe that everything will be ok. That is the work of the expert parent.

In moments of storm the expert parent says: “I am taking care of this baby and I love this baby. My baby might be frightened but I am not because know I will figure it out. If she cries, it’s ok.”

Why is this so important? Because our baby needs us to believe it too.

 

So parents, here are some strategies for weathering the storm with grace:

  1. Take a breath. Maybe two.
  2. You may need to walk away for a minute knowing that it is for the best in the long run.
  3. You may need to tune in to what YOU need at that moment in order to know what your baby needs. maybe it’s a walk outside. Maybe it’s a song.
  4. Ask for help when you need it.
  5. Know that the storm will pass.

It is not necessarily working to overcome the storm rather to accept it. It is part of sailing. It’s part of parenting. We can’t always make it go away. We do our best to help and we have the confidence that eventually it will pass. The sun will peek out from the clouds and there will be a sunset and a glass of wine waiting.

These are my strategies but I want to hear yours. Let’s brainSTORM on this. Please share below in the comments.

Now let’s look at it from another perspective – the passenger’s.  As a passenger on the expert sailor’s boat we might feel frightened, but our fear would be contained by our skipper. We would have confidence that it would all be okay. On the novice sailor’s boat, it would be quite a shocking experience to be watching them frantically trying to troubleshoot – raising the sail, bringing down the sail, fiddling with the rudder, throwing things off the boat, etc.

Our babies need us to convey confidence that the storm will pass.

They register our trials and errors and our distress. Although they might feel scared, panicked, or confused, they trust us and need us to contain their anxiety.

So back to joy and technique – We may never fully feel that we have accrued enough technique to parent expertly. But we can work to cultivate confidence that the storm will pass. And that will open us up to experiencing all the joys that come with it.

 

How do you weather the storms? COMMENT below and let me know. Do you take a breath or two? Do you take a break yourself or turn to music?

Know a novice sailor or an expert one? Share this Tuesday Tune-In. We’re all making our way across this ocean together. Forward this email to all the sailors (parents) out there!

2 steps to feeling closer to your partner

Hello dear In Tune Parents,

This week’s Tuesday Tune In is all about finding balance in our marriage. Is it possible? I would love to hear your thoughts. Here are some of mine:

Every couple of years I take on a big project. During the year that it takes, I usually feel extremely creative, productive and motivated. The problem is that the more absorbed I get into creation, the more distant I feel from my kids and, especially, my husband.

Here’s what I’ve learned in 10 years of marriage:
When my plate is overflowing, my partnership is the first to suffer.

Okay. It’s true that he accepts my ebbs and flows. Maybe he’s even proud of me during those times. But I know that he also feels neglected. I start to see the signs: our conversations become all about household business, he stays up late watching TV, we don’t get in bed at the same time and we are a bit shorter with each other. I’ll even see negative effects trickle down to the household. The kids become shorter with each other and compete for attention. That’s a pretty convincing case that I need to shift my focus.

How do I make this shift? No need to immediately jump to sex. When there’s a rift in the relationship that can feel way too threatening. Instead, here are the 2 steps I’ve found work best. …

How to Intimately Reconnect with your Partner:

1. Find a moment to be fully present – physically and emotionally
Empty the to-do list and truly feel that the night is open ended.

2. Start small
A hand on a shoulder. A hug. Maybe it ends there for that night. Or maybe it goes further. Part of what feels stressful sometimes is the pressure of going ‘all the way’. But in those moments when it feels like there is a small glacier between us, sometimes just leaning on each other while watching TV feels like a big melting step.

This sounds so easy but its not. For me, right now in the busy work-mode that I am in, I almost need to schedule it in my calendar. It’s nice when it naturally rises to the top of my list. That’s when we effortlessly fall into each other. But during these moments that I’m talking about, and I know you’ve had them too, it feels effortFULL. It almost feels like laundry.

When each kid was an infant it felt the same way. My husband and I put everything we had into staying aflot above a sea of diapers, nightime wake ups, and a constant to-do list. During those years, raising a baby was the project.

I’m going to give you a happy ending on this one because I want to inspire you.

True story –  this morning my husband and I woke up feeling re-connected to each other. The kids immediately seemed a bit more chipper, and I’ve been feeling pretty damn productive all day.  You can imagine how last night went :)

So that’s the big lesson here. The one that I need to relearn again and again. Being productive does not necessarily mean “working.” It means balance.

And how do we learn what balance means for us? We keep asking ourselves – “What amazing things happened today?” Eventually, we get it. And then we forget it, and then we get it again.

Schedule time to just be present together. It might just bring new energy to all of your other endeavors too.

Has your career blomed while your marriage wilted? Comment below and let me know.
It can’t just be me, right? What work opportunities have you seized and how have you maintained your love connection? I would love to hear your comments below.

Know someone else who needs two ways to feel closer? Share this Tuesday Tune-In. Relationship advice is best when it comes from a good friend. Forward this email their way!

AND – if you are on Instagram please follow me! I do IG lives every Wednesday.
If you are on Facebook – please follow me! I do FB lives every Wednesday too :)

All for now,
Love Vered

3 ways to get your baby drumming

Friends – It’s Tuesday Tune-In time.

Before we get started, some housekeeping. If you aren’t already, I highly suggest following me on Instagram at @babyintune, and on Facebook @baby in tune. I’ve been doing live posts with some good tips, have been sharing new songs, and find it a great way to connect with you all on a more regular basis.

Ok. Here we go.

This week, I let you in on a musical-bonding tool that’s not vocal. Spoiler: It’s drumming. More specifically, drumming together. It creates magic in a room.

Try it for yourself. You don’t need to be a musician to lead a drum circle. You don’t need special drums. Break out the pots and Tupperware – or just use the floor – and start banging. Believe me: Baby will follow your lead.

There’s a reason for this: It feels good to drum with someone else. It’s similar to the feeling we have when we dance with other people. Humans enjoy synchronizing to the rhythm of music, especially with others.

And that starts very early on – even little babies prefer synchronization and can modify their movements to the sound of music. (Have you been wondering if your baby is actually kicking to the beat? The answer is yes!)

Not sure where to start? Here are some techniques to create magic by drumming together.

(My favorite is the last one, so if you can, read till the end.  To me that one is really a metaphor for life. Maybe they all are?)

THREE WAYS TO START A FAMILY DRUM CIRCLE

1. Hold down a simple beat.
The easiest and most common rhythm in Western culture is a four count. So drum out your beat while counting: 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4. You can add eighth notes (1 and 2 and 3 and 4), and you can syncopate it, which means taking out some beats and putting the stress on beats that might have otherwise been softer. (e.g. 1 2 and _ 4).

Since you are holding down the beat, your baby is free to drum within that. Your job is to stay steady and be the backbone like a drummer in a band. Your baby gets to be the soloist.

(You see what I mean by all this being a metaphor for life and parenting?)

2. Pick an area of the world you’d like to visit with your drumming.
Good options are: Africa, Cuba, Middle East, the Caribbean, India or others. Somewhere pique your interest?

Now, look up “African drumming.” Once you find a song that inspires you, you and your baby can drum along to that song. It’s pretty fun to jam along with music that you’re listening to. Especially drumming.

Recently in my classes we traveled into Asia through Japan and China. Taiko drumming, from Japan, is often accompanied by choreographed dance. And Chinese drumming can sometimes be lyrical and tell a story.

Although our classes are comprised of babies and parents who often don’t consider themselves musical, after we listen to music from a particular culture there is a distinct feeling to each drum circle that is clearly inspired by the music we just heard.

3. Listen very closely to the sounds people around you are making.
This reminds me of a game my kids play where they see how high a number they can count to. Each person says one number spontaneously, without designating an order.

If you’ve ever done this, then you know that the exercise sharpens your focus on being in the moment. It makes you stand in a group and look around with anticipation, wondering when the others will say a number and when there will be space for you to call one out. Most of all, it perks up your ears.

The best kinds of drum circles are like that. When each person listens very closely to the music and the sounds that others are making. The idea is to really be on the edge of your seat anticipating and excited by where your sound will fit into the sound of the group. It can feel pretty profound.

This drum circle may sound different than what you are used to. It may not have a steady beat, rather it may have a loose more spontaneous feel to it, like a conversation.

As way to truly converse through music, try mirroring your baby’s beats and vocalizations with your beats and voice as well.

If for just a few minutes a day we can take a moment to listen closely to the sounds around us – the sounds our baby is making, and our response to those sounds – we may just tell a story with our music.

(Feeling like a metaphor for life and parenting again?)

Just remember: The more you get into it, the more you will enjoy it. So let go of inhibitions. And know that, in order to do that, you need to play for much longer than you would think.  So start and don’t stop until the story you’re telling comes to a close.

What have your drumming experiences been like? I’d love to hear about it in the COMMENTS section.

Did you drop in to a drum circle in college, on a trip or in a recent baby/me class? I want to know. Write a comment!

Who else needs baby/me activity inspo? Share this Tuesday Tune-In. I know the days can be long. Share this fun and emotionally connecting activity with a friend by clicking Forward!

A quick way to feel present with your baby

Good, good morning to you – moms, dads, grandparents, and caregivers.

It’s time for The Tuesday Tune In. This week, I’m telling you one super-quick, super-easy way to be present with your children.

You know that moment when our babies or kids ask us to do something “one more time”? I know you do.

We all love their desire for more Together Time – but in that moment we can pass on the opportunity. Often it’s because it’s nearing the end of the day and we’re too worn out. Or we see that little bit more as just TOO MUCH right then.

Or – if you’re like me – you’re just so ready for the fast-approaching Me Time.

So, you’ve probably already guessed what I’m going to tell you to try this week:

Push yourself to do that thing ONE MORE TIME.

For my kids, it’s an extra hug after bedtime kisses.

Have you ever seen a horse nearing the stable after a long walk? That’s when the horse’s walking turns into a trot because they know they’re almost home.

At 7:55pm, I feel me-time becoming a reality and I start to gallop home. And it’s right when I reach the stable when the kids each ask for one more hug.

For your child it might be asking for you to rock them one more time, to walk the curb like a balance beam one more time or to sing a chorus one more time.

I say, for the next week, Let’s see what happens when we push ourselves to give in for those two extra minutes – whether it’s the extra hug, the detour or the added rocking.

One of my biggest struggles as a parent is to do all of the things I do every day (career, errands, tasks, social life) and also find a way to be fully present with my kids.

I’ve found that this is one simple shift in my behavior that changes everything.

One day recently I went back and lied down with my daughter in her bed for a moment and I gave her a long, delicious hug. I let my tasks go. The emails would wait. The mess would still be there. And I gave in to two minutes of being fully present with her.

Later I realized that it was the best part of my day.

How did I realize the power of “one more time”?
I wrote the extra hug in my Five Minute Journal.

A couple weeks ago, I sent out an email about a practice called The Five Minute Journal by Tim Ferriss. (Read that full post here.)

I noticed that at the end of the day, when I was writing my list of amazing things that happened that day, I would consistently write about the extra hug. And then the next day when I was writing my list of what would make the day great I started to put down the extra hug. Because: Why wouldn’t I make my day amazing?

So try it. See if it makes your day amazing, too.

What’s your child’s “one more thing”? Comment and let me know.
One last dance-off? One last tickle fight? It’s different for every child. I want to know yours. Drop me a line here.

Glad you read this Tuesday Tune-In? Share it – one more time!
Quick. Now. Before you’re ready to move on to Me time! Forward to a friend, you good samaritan.

Do you have a friend with a baby who needs sleep asap? Send them the Easy-Bedtime Lullaby Kit.

One trick to feeling good about your singing

Hi, tuned-in moms and dads,

This week in the Tuesday Tune In, I want to offer you a strategy for feeling good about your singing voice.

You might be surprised to hear: Whenever I sit down at the microphone to record vocals for an album, I have a mini freak-out. I’ve never thought of myself as a great singer. What I really wanted since I was a kid was to be able to sing like Mariah Carey or Beyonce or other singers who seemed to have endless flexibility in their vocals. I hope you’re not reading this thinking – “Oh please. She has a beautiful voice.”

Because that’s my point:
Everyone feels insecure when they sing. (Even those who make a career out of it.)

If you haven’t grown up singing in your home or with your family or friends, then it probably feels even more uncomfortable and scary.

So, I’m going to give you a strategy.

Here’s a method that I use when I’m singing at the mic. I’m hoping it will help you when you are singing to your baby. Because here’s the thing: Your baby wants to hear you sing. More than Paul McCartney, more than Aretha. Your baby wants to hear YOU.

The trick to STOP JUDGING and START LOVING your singing voice:

1. Relax your voice by taking in a deep breath before each phrase.

This is important because if your body tenses, then your voice will immediately feel constricted. Once that happens, our brains recognize the discord and we judge ourselves from the get-go.

2. Hear your voice as if it is coming from outside of you.

As you are singing try to hear your voice as if someone else is singing to you. This is the hard part and the incredible part. You might need to close your eyes as you do this but if you manage to do it, even for a minute, you may feel soothed by your own voice. Instead of judging it, you may enjoy it. This is because we are much less judgemental of others than we are of ourselves.

This technique is a bit easier in a group when you can focus on everyone else’s voice instead of your own. We do this alot in our classes. When shifting our focus to the voices around us we notice that our own voice tends to be more in pitch, more relaxed, and seems to find its place among the other voices in an effortless way.

I learned this while recording my albums. My biggest task in the studio was to get out of my own head. If I didn’t, I could feel my inner dialogue getting the best of me just a few words in. My voice felt and sounded constricted and didn’t seem to flow. If someone could’ve record my thoughts during those few words, they would probably have seen a quick moving list of comments – “You sound terrible,” “You shouldn’t be singing this song,” “That note was off,” “Your jaws is not relaxed,” “Sara Bareilles sounds much better” or, “No one will want to hear this.”.

That voice can be SO loud. And while we all have a version of it, some hear it louder than others.

I know this from years of doing classes and singing with parents. Many don’t feel comfortable singing in a group or, if they do, they will be sure to sing under their breath so no one can hear.

There’s a good reason for that. Singing is not like talking. Speaking often comes from an intellectual place. But singing bypasses our intellect and comes directly from an emotional place. That feels vulnerable no matter who you are.

But that is what makes singing so powerful.

Tonight as you are singing a lullaby to your baby, try it. It’s a mindfulness exercise and it’s not simple but it’s worth it. Why not let you AND your baby be soothed by your voice?

How comfortable are you with your voice?
Have you overcome insecurities while singng? How?
I want to hear!! Email and let me know.

So many parents in my groups feel insecure about singing. Your stories can help them overcome their anxiety.

Love this Tuesday Tune-In? Share it with a mom friend or dad friend. The ones who sang at your wedding and the ones who won’t even karaoke. Forward away.

Love Vered

Sleeping Much? I didn’t think so.

Download the FREE Easy-Bedtime Lullaby Cheat Sheet now

Article in Scary Mommy!

Hello dear parents!

How cool is this? Scary Mommy published my article about getting siblings to stop fighting. I’d love to hear what you think. Also, has the album been helping at all? My hope is that it helps to raise some awareness in your family as to dynamics, challenges, and just feeling like we are not alone.

https://www.scarymommy.com/how-i-got-my-kids-to-stop-fighting/

NEW ALBUM IS OUT!!

Hi everyone,
I am so excited to announce that my new album has been released to the world. It has been a year of HARD WORK. Seriously, doing my classes, training a new therapist, recording an album, launching a Kickstarter, and oh yeah, raising three kids, has been alot this year. But now I am at the other side of it all and can take a deep breath in.

The album is all about SIBLINGS. The Kickstarter campaign really explains where I was coming from with this one. Click here to see the video. This album was made with all of your help. I could not have done it without you.

It is already getting great press and airplay. But most importantly, I am hoping you all like it. Recently I received an email from a fan that made me feel like all of my hard work is worth it:

“The songs from the new album are beautiful and brought me to tears sometimes. Most of all, I was able to reflect on how much your class has meant to R and I during this profoundly important year and as my little lady is about to turn one! Thank you for what you do. I think yesterday was a testament to everyone around that you are meant to do the work that you do and to touch the lives of all of us in an awe-inspiring way.”

You can now purchase the album on Itunes, Amazon, or anywhere else. Please do check in and tell me if/which songs resonate with you.

Lots of love,
Vered

For the NON-CHEF (/working+distracted+couldn’t be bothered/parent)

I am not a chef. I admire and envy those people who feel so utterly comfortable in the kitchen. Usually it is because they have been watching their mother (father?) cooking in the kitchen since they were kids. There was no scene like that in my house. My parents both worked a lot and I was a typical 80s key kid. Once we moved to Israel when I was 11 I remember making my own chocolate spread sandwiches for school and throwing together dinners that were usually omelet, toast, cream cheese.
My mother did have two or three meals that she made. As did her mother, as do I. For years I have been trying to expand on those and maybe this year will be the year. But for now I thought I would post a sample week’s menu as we start the school season. The thing is, if it were just my husband and I we would probably eat odds and ends from the fridge every night. But we have to feed these children balanced, healthy meals goddamit.

Spaghetti. Yum.
Spaghetti. Yum.

This menu is for my fellow NON-CHEFS. Those of you who regularly use things like salad spinners, graters, mincers, and food processors need not read on. Unless you want to feel good about your cooking abilities and chuckle about mine.

My hope is that you will post your weekly menus in the comments too. I need more suggestions and I imagine others do too. Meals that are quick and easy with very few ingredients are the ones I go for. Also, I don’t do meals that need any earlier prep time. That is reserved solely for dinner parties in which I want to impress friends.

You might read these and think – my kid would never eat that. Well sometimes mine don’t either. But I insist on saying to them – this is what is for dinner. if you don’t like it then don’t eat. I do allow for a banana or apple at any meal even if it is not on the table.

7 Meals that Can be Done FAST

1. Meat Sauce Spaghetti

  • In a skillet fry the meat (I use organic farm raised shredded beef. no need to add oil)
  • Drain fat
  • In a pot fry onions, add red peppers,
  • Add tomato sauce from a can (I use the ones that are only tomato sauce without added seasoning) and maybe a small can of tomato paste to add thickness, and meat.
  • Boil spaghetti

2. Taco/Burritos

  • Soft tacos (my kids like whole wheat tortillas. they aren’t really tacos at all but are bien enough)
  • Refried beans – sometimes not even heated
  • Rice – depends how much time you have. White for fast, I like brown, farro if I am feeling daring enough to trick the kids into thinking it’s rice
  • Avocado slices
  • Maybe cheese maybe salsa
  • Sauteed onions and peppers if I am feeling fancy

After making two meals I usually need a rest.

"Tacos" rolled in a soft tortilla and roasted veggies.
“Tacos” rolled in a soft tortilla and roasted veggies.

3. Frozen Pizza

  • We like Amy’s gluten free with spinach. It is very crunchy and tasty and although the kids are not gluten free I am.

4. Fish or chicken cutlets

This is really the most time intensive. It might be easier and faster to bake the fish or chicken but my kids like this.

  • Two plates – one with beaten eggs, one with almond meal (or other bread crumb). Put fish first in egg, then in crumbs (till covered).
  • Fry in skillet till golden. I use coconut oil because it comes out yummy.

(You can tell I am not a chef by how I am writing all these out. But I DO know they like to say the word “golden” a whole lot.)

  • Roast veggies – this is an easy staple for many meals. I often cut up whatever veggies we have (sweet potato, kale, brocolli, cauliflower, beets, onions, zuchini), put them in a baking pan, mush them around with olive and salt and throw the in the oven. Sometimes the kids nibble on it sometimes they don’t touch it. I love it.

5. Sushi Order-In (I realize this should not go on a recipe list but I want to put it out there that I allow myself a night of ordering in. Sometimes it is even cheaper than the other option.)

We all agree that this is the best meal of all - ordering in
We all agree that this is the best meal of all – ordering in

6. Stir Fry Chicken

  • Cut chicken breast into small pieces.
  • Cut carrots and celery and whatever else into small pieces
  • Fry onions, then chicken for a while. Throw in veggies.
  • Make rice

Kids usually eat the chicken pieces without the veggies. I eat the veggies.

7. Weekend meals usually consist of lots of smoothies and sandwiches, and french toast for dinner

Please post your easy meals! Help out a fellow non-chef.

Helping Them Connect the Dots

My 4 year old did something terrible and unthinkable. He choked his 1.5 year old sister, enough to make her cough. He has pushed her before, grabbed from her, or given her a too-hard hug. But this felt alot different.

I was terrified, mortified, and so angry. After making sure she was ok I sent him to his room. I needed to collect myself as much as I felt he did. My thoughts raced – how could he do this? what made him do it? my mind fast-forwarded: am I raising a murderer? a psychopath? I felt fear and shame. Have I failed as a mother? Sometimes all it takes is one moment like this for me to doubt all of the intentional parenting I pour my energy into.

So I took a breath and went into his room. I impressed upon him the gravity of what he had done. By my initial reaction he already knew it was serious. He was shaken and scared because he did not truly mean to put her in danger. In fact I don’t even think he meant to hurt her a lot. I think he wanted to throw her off her course. Not that his behavior was excusable. But he did not understand the full affect that strangling can have.

Next I asked – what made you do that?
As a therapist I know that is not a great question to ask. Usually, if someone can articulate why they did something terrible they probably wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But in my state it was all I could bring myself to ask.

“You!” he said. “What do you mean me?” I said, “I did not tell you to do that!” I was still so angry that I couldn’t hear what he was trying to tell me. He changed the subject a few times while I kept asking my non-therapeutic question “but please tell me – why did you do that?” And finally he said “you got dressed!”

I stopped and took a moment to follow the sequence of events as he had experienced them and it dawned on me. Once I had connected the dots for myself I did it for him (slowly and with emphasis):

“You were angry when I told you we were going out tonight. You and I played ball but then you got upset because I stopped the game and went to get dressed. I came back to play and you got even more upset when I had to change my outfit. You were angry at me for leaving you tonight and for leaving the game. And then you hurt your sister who is smaller and can’t hurt you back. But maybe you really wanted to hurt me. You were feeling so angry at me.”

When I finished he took a big breath. I always know I’ve reached them when they sigh big.

Last year I attended a conference at Zero to Three, where practitioners from all over the country who work in early childhood come to learn about the latest research and methods. I was particularly struck by the presentations of Dr. Alicia Lieberman and Dr. Chandra Ghosh Ippen, both of whom research the affect of psychotherapy on children who have undergone trauma. My biggest takeaway from it was the idea of helping children create a narrative of their experience. Ghosh Ippen calls it creating a “conjoint trauma narrative” and Lieberman calls it “giving expression to the traumatic experience.” It is the idea that even young babies need to eventually reconstruct the experience in order to understand it. This along with very loving, consistent, and attuned therapy can help a child overcome post traumatic symptoms.

Thankfully my children have not experienced severe trauma. However, when I returned from the conference and tried a similar technique on my kids for small injuries I found that it had a pretty magical effect. Especially when I paired it with the idea I learned from Dr. Serena Wieder, who talked about understanding and helping children through emotional dysregulation. For instance, when my baby was in the bath and hit her head on the spout she immediately started crying and splashing the water, holding her hands out to come out. She was dysregulated and her body reacted by putting her in a heightened state of “I want out!”

I don’t always catch the moment before something like this happens, and often my attention is only called when the crying starts. But this time I had caught the lead-up. I pointed to the spout and said to my one year old “you hit your head on the spout and got an ‘owey’ (I demonstrated by hitting my head. “and it hurts and you want to come out.” She absorbed the narrative and even recreated it in her own words with pantomime, hitting her head and pointing to the spout. She sighed, and kept playing happily in the bath.

I started helping my kids “connect the dots” in other situations when they got emotionally dysregulated. I recounted what had happened prior, marking events or triggers that I thought had led up to it. Sometimes it was in the span of 3 minutes, sometimes a few hours. This is basically what psychotherapy aims to do as well, often with a much larger span of time (childhood, adolescence, etc.)

Back to my son and the strangling. The most appalling part of the story is him as the perpetrator, not the victim. However it was his feeling of powerlessness and frustration that led him to act on his anger. They were not traumatic events per se but events that slowly led him to emotional dysregulation.

I am not saying that my son’s actions were forgivable because I can understand where his anger came from. But my hope is that if I can help him connect the dots when he gets upset and escalates enough times, he will eventually be able to do it on his own in real time and will be able to control his aggressive impulses.

I ended the conversation with giving him an alternate route: “next time you can say ‘mama! I am feeling angry that you are leaving and are not playing with me. I feel like I want to do something mean to someone. Please help me!”

If nothing else, our conversation was therapeutic for us both. Mama needed to connect the dots too, so that I wouldn’t dump all of my parenting mistakes into one moment and in my mind have them lead to a future psychopath who wreaks havoc.

On a side note, this year I will be presenting my own methods at the Zero to Three conference.I can only hope that at least one practitioner/parent will walk away with a new tool, or a deeper understanding of how to help make our lives with our kids more loving and peaceful.

How I Survived an 11 Hour Flight On My Own With 3 Kids and Other Musings

Not sure how I got myself into it. A day flight, with three kids, on my own, including a 1.5 year old lap-baby. Is this what hell looks like?

Let’s back up. I spent a great month in Israel. Grandparents galore! And we did it right this time – the boys went to camp and the baby went to daycare. So they got their Israeliness (Alona says oy oy oy alot now) and I got a break during the morning. It was hot. But surprisingly, New York feels even hotter than Israel was. We did spend alot of time at the pool and the beach.

This time around I was struck by how alive Israeli’s are. Maybe it has something to do with living under the threat of war as a normal state of being. Here, we are just getting used to the idea that terror attacks can infiltrate the western world. Israelis were born into that reality.

It can make a person close down emotionally, deaden inside in order not to feel constantly overwhelmed. And for some people in Israel it does. But I also sensed the opposite. I felt a carpe diem quality that propels them to live strong, hard, fun, and edgy. The parties are intense. The protests are everywhere. And what struck me most of all, was the flirty nature of Israelis. Flirting happens at the deli, at a restaurant, at the playground. “You mean you don’t flirt with the dads at the playground?” My friend asked. I was appalled. Hell no! I completely close off that part of me when I am in ‘mom mode’. Flirt with another woman’s husband? Lord have mercy! “But,” she said “It is part of being alive. We are sexual beings. It is possible to be playful without acting on it.” I have to mull that one over.
I have been feeling hopeless and helpless about the state of America and the world and this attitude was a refreshing way to cope with it all.

Back to the flight. Here are the things I feel were crucial to getting through hell on wings. None of these are going to surprise you but it is good to have a list.

1. Duh. Screens. I had the kindle, the ipad, another ipad, the laptop, and the screens on the chairs to save my ass. The boys watched for 11 hours straight. Every program or movie I ever said no to. Time limits null and void. I even downloaded some Elmo for Alona who has not had any official screen time yet. She LOVES the videos of Elmos singing with celebs. (25 minutes down. 10.35 to go.)

2. Snacks. You can’t bring enough. Puffs, crackers, lollipops (for the ears), fruit, sandwiches (if they don’t like the plane meal), water bottles, nuts, bars, all of it.

3. Sticker books. Each of the boys had one (mindcraft for the older and this one which I love for the younger.) Alona had a book of Sesame Street stickers which gave me a good half hour. Yes, I was counting my time in half hour segments. I could happily watch my movie while absent mindedly helping her extract stickers.

4. Painters tape. This is a simple trick I pass on to anyone who is having trouble with wiggly-baby diaper changes. It is endless fun. Tear off a piece, it gets stuck on their fingers, on their body, keep tearing and sticking. Long pieces, short pieces.

5. Markers and notebook. We colored alot. Baby on a swing, baby waving hello, baby with an elephant. She especially enjoyed opening markers, using them for a second, closing them back and putting them in the box. I enjoyed it a little less when I had to bend over in our close quarters constantly searching for the lost cap.

6. A rolling suitcase as a carry on. To put all those screens and snacks in. This is in addition to the smaller backpack of absolutely essentials that go under the chair.

7. Now we are heading into emotional stuff. Resignation. That there will be segments of rest but basically it will be non-stop work. We walked up and down the aisles ALOT. We made friends with every baby and every grown up who didn’t give us a dirty look. And it was important that I was resigned to doing it. I expected it.

8. This is also obvious, but don’t forget the carrier. That is where they will finally fall asleep when there is 45 minutes to go. Right before the stewardess comes and says babies can’t be in a carrier for landing. Noooooo!!

9. Mental preparation for the older kids. I prepared them for the fact that I will not be going with them to the bathroom every time, that there might be a line so they should go BEFORE they can no longer hold it, and that they will probably have to climb over me. They whined but they went to those tiny closets without me.

All in all the day flight was refreshing in a way. I am used to night flights in which I do similar stuff but am also exhausted and dying to sleep. This time at least I was up for the fight.

Any tricks you use for flights? let me know. I have many more in my future.

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Creativity

For the last few months I have been thinking a lot about creativity. Mostly because I’ve had a hard time connecting to my own. Not to say that it has ever been that easy for me. It’s always been a struggle on some level. But this last year has felt especially dry.
I know I am not alone in this. Most people who have ever had a creative endeavor, which is to say everyone, have had periods of resistance. Creativity needs space and time and that is something that I, along with all of my fellow parents of little ones, do not have. Diving into that necessary place of experiment and playfulness seems almost impossible when I need to be goal driven so much of the time to get through that ever lasting list; pick up a kid, make a meal, clean the house, run a bath.
In addition, artistic creativity entails going inward to a non-social place where I am alone with my feelings. That doesn’t happen often in this house. But more than that, for me making art involves facing a pretty dark place, an existential one, in which I connect to the extreme sadness but also joy of being human.
Kim Brooks’ article “A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Mom,” in New York Magazine, lays out the struggles of being an artist and parent so eloquently and tragically. She writes: “the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.” Yes. “People make art,” she says, “for exactly the opposite reason they make families.”

Keeping up with this blog is a perfect illustration of where my creativity has been in the last year. I have an idea for a blog almost daily. I start writing them in my head and get excited about sharing them with you all (all 4 of you?). But I don’t follow through. I get home and am tired, or need to make dinner, or answer emails, or most often – have already poo poo’ed the idea in my head.
Because the universal enemy to artistic creation, whether an artist or not, is self doubt. Will anyone care? How will this make me look to others? Is it too self indulgent? Is it worth my time or anyone else’s time? On that topic I recommend Brene’ Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability in which she talks about vulnerability being the birthplace of creativity. It is a touching and inspiring account of her own avoidance of vulnerability and the growth that followed her facing it.

So – I found myself with a hundred beginnings of songs that were never followed through, and twenty blog post beginnings that I never finished. Coming up with the ideas is not my problem. It is working through that vulnerability, allowing myself to retreat into a lonely place, giving myself time away from my list, and most of all making myself sweat through it.

I did some work – I meditated a bit (I recommend the app Headspace for anyone interested in meditating but feeling resistance). I attended a meeting with strangers to talk about what it means to be creative. I attended other social gatherings relating to art that I dragged myself to but ended up feeling very inspired by. And then I did the best thing of all – I asked a few of my colleague friends if they wanted to join me in a creative lab in which we MUST write and present a song a week.

When it comes down to it, it isn’t about producing the perfect song or blog post, it is about producing. My friends hold me accountable and I finish a song even if I think it is crap (which have been most of them so far.) But I feel good. I am reminded of why I do art and put myself out there this way – it feels like I unload a little weight every time a song is realized to its completion. Not only that, it gives me the strength to finally go ahead and write a blog post in its entirety.

The screen we call Grandma

I know this looks familiar. Our kids have a pretty strong relationship with this screen that is both touching and heartbreaking.
Every day I ask myself why I live so far away from my parents. I know so many of us do. In my case my parents live in Israel, and a life there at the moment feels complicated and intense in a way that we are not prepared to endure. Our careers are going well here and the kids have a good life with endless events and activities.
But I don’t have to watch every single drama out there to know what truly matters most: Love. Family.
And yet the years seem to move on and my oldest son is already 6 years old. He sees his grandparents twice a year (luckily they come to visit us) but it is not enough. I fantasize about weekly get togethers, Friday night dinners, a babysitting night, a brunch.
I crave seeing the way my parents gaze at my kids on a regular basis. Their love for the grandkids seems so pure and wise, without any difficult emotions that sometimes can accompany the feeling of love. My own vision of my kids can sometimes be clouded by exhaustion, anger, disappointment, ego. Seeing my kids through my mothers eyes reminds me of the beauty of it all right when I forget.

I have lived far away from my parents for the past 20 years but it was only when I had kids that I suddenly missed them desperately. It was precisely at the moment in which I became a mom that I relaxed into the role of being my parents’ baby. Until then I fought it.

So for Mothers Day I am offering you a free download of my song ‘Grandparents’ HERE. This song does not come close to conveying everything I feel about this topic. But the last line hints at the crux of it all – “And me, well I sure could use that hug too.”

Mom (and dad), we miss you. Happy grandmothers day. You are a grand mother.photo 2