Blog Archives

Body-centering Babies (and Mommies!)

When babies cry “for no reason”, people usually try to distract them. I had the realization the other day that doing this might encourage habits of dissociation + escapism when they get older, instead of being present with their feelings (“I’m upset, oh I’ll go into the next room and look at the computer for a while”, etc).

Today I was caring for a 5-month-old. Right after a nap, bottle, and diaper change, the baby started to cry. I knew it wasn’t one of those three things she needed, and she had that glazed-over look that babies sometimes have when they are crying “for no reason”, so I thought she might like me to help bring her attention back to herself. I moved her legs and rubbed her belly and said “here you are!”, and she IMMEDIATELY stopped crying and regained focus in her eyes. She looked at me with a deep, fully conscious look, and let out a delighted laugh.

How awesome is THAT?

I also sometimes need help coming back to myself. My husband (who conveniently for me, is skilled in teaching various body-centered somatic psychotherapy practices) is an awesome resource for me when I am stressed and want to just go on autopilot instead of confront those feelings. When I am lost in thoughts, he’s there like a light in the fog to tell me “here you are!”. And here I am, needing nothing in this moment other than what I have already.

Advertisements

The Tao of Tantrums

I have a toddler, and I nanny a not-yet-sitting-up-by-herself baby full time. So far, it has been very interesting, delightful, and occasionally completely chaotic. My daughter is just now entering into the phase of “tantrums”, where her frustrations can quickly explode into very intense emotion. Now all of a sudden she has to share mommy with another baby, so she sometimes must WAIT instead of having her needs met immediately. Recipe for disaster? Not necessarily!

When a baby is crying, it is instinctual to check on them to see what they need. When a more self-reliant toddler is crying, it is easier to assume that they are “just being whiny” or “can wait a little longer while I finish the dishes”, etc. But ignoring children sets a bad example, and soon they will start to ignore YOU when you want them to pay attention! Despite knowing this, I have recently been doing something foolish…

Whenever I would bring the baby in to the diaper changing room, my daughter would follow us in and start crying with RAGE. I didn’t understand why she was so mad, but I knew the baby needed a diaper change or SHE would start to freak out too, so I would just try to do it as quickly as possible. Usually I’d try to distract my daughter with an interesting object (ooo shiny!). But then the next time the baby needed a diaper change, it would be the same thing over again.

At some point, I realized that perhaps my daughter just didn’t know WHY I was bringing the baby in there and doing something on a high table she couldn’t see the top of, WHY she was being made to wait, WHY mommy was hurrying and being stressed in response to her cries instead of LISTENING. I decided to take a moment – breathe – and explain! I knelt down with the baby on my knee, and said to my daughter very slowly, and simply: “There’s POOP in the baby’s diaper!”. She stopped crying, and said “DI-PUH”, pointing to the baby’s diaper. I said “Yes. POOP! In the diaper. She wants a NEW diaper. Should we give her a new diaper?”

After that, she seemed to understand. The next time the baby needed a diaper change, my daughter pointed down the hall toward the changing room as if to say “Let’s go!”

When you are tired, trying to finish something, and there is a tiny person screaming at you for a reason that you don’t think is reasonable, it is sometimes hard to know what is best to do. Really, the best thing you can do is BE CALM yourself, and notice your kid. They are trying to tell you something that feels very important to them. The dishes can wait. The diapers can wait. What is actually needed might only take a moment.

Curry Banana Matzo Ball Soup ?!

So my friend Louis and I just created the best soup in the world and I want to write down what we did before I forget, because I’m definitely making this next Passover! Basically, he was making fun of me for making vegan matzo balls in the past and was like “What did you use instead of eggs? Bananas?”, and I was like “THAT’S A GREAT IDEA! It can be like a Thai curry soup”. So we made it together this evening and it was quite delicious:

CURRY BANANA MATZO BALL SOUP:
3 cups matzo meal
3 cans coconut milk
2 soft bananas
2 sweet potatoes
2 yellow potatoes
1 onion
5 tbsp Thai red curry paste (or more, to taste)
salt (to taste)
optional: rice cooked with lemongrass

TO MAKE MATZO BALLS:
– Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl with a fork.
– Mix with matzoh meal until doughy.
– Form into 1-inch balls (add more matzoh meal if the dough isn’t thick enough to form into balls)

TO PREPARE THE BROTH:
– Chop the sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, and onion.
– Put all chopped ingredients into a large pot and add water until they are submerged under about 2 inches of water.
– Bring to a boil, then add the matzoh balls
– Lower head to let simmer for about 30-40min or until potatoes are soft and matzo balls have risen to the top.
– Add coconut milk, curry paste, and salt.
– Let simmer for another 15 minutes.
– Serve over lemongrass-flavored rice.

Azuki Bean Biscuits!

Azuki beans already have a somewhat sweet flavor. For this reason, they are used in many Oriental desserts, including red bean cake and mooncake. I developed this recipe so that my toddler + I can share healthy snacks that are wheat-free, sugar-free, AND delicious. They are chewy and hold together well so they don’t make a crumby mess, and they make very tasty (and adorable) tiny-sandwiches. The flavor is sweet and satisfying. Recipe and more serving ideas below!

About the beans:
Azuki beans are a small, reddish bean with a sweet flavor. They are highly regarded for their nutritional and healing properties in Oriental medicine. To prepare dried azuki beans, first let them soak overnight. Rinse, and boil for 1 hour or until soft but still firm. Drain and leave to cool.

AZUKI BEAN BISCUITS
Ingredients:
5 cups rolled oats
2 cups azuki beans (cooked + cooled)
2 cups sweet potatoes (cooked + cooled)
4 eggs
pinch of salt

Directions:
– In a large mixing bowl, lightly mash the beans + sweet potatoes together with a fork.
– Add all other ingredients and mix well.
– Form tiny (2-inch wide) biscuits onto a greased baking tray.
– Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 min
(makes about 36 baby-sized biscuits)

Fun serving ideas:
– Cut biscuits in half and make little sandwiches or mini-burgers
– Top them with tomato slices, fresh basil, and a drizzle of olive oil
– Use them to scoop salsa or dips (a yogurt-dill dip would be good)
– They go well with anything buttery or cheese-like
– Top them with your favorite jam (pepper jelly would be awesome with these)
– Serve them with soup!

Easy and Nutritious Baby Snacks (Carrot Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe)

Babies need snacks while you’re out and about, and preferably ones that make the least amount of mess possible (especially if you’re visiting friends who don’t have kids and aren’t accustomed to having bright red tomato sauce splashed all over their nice white couches… and carpets… and ceilings…).

We try to stay away from wheat, dairy, and sweeteners, AND we’re on a budget so we can’t just go out and buy fancy organic gluten-free snacky things (which are usually pumped full of so-called “healthy” sweeteners anyway). This means I have to get creative when it comes to packing snacks that will:
a) actually get eaten by a toddler
b) not spoil in the summer heat
c) not destroy someone’s house in 2 seconds
d) be extremely easy (and cheap) to make in the first place

I’ve been tinkering around with ingredients that we normally have around the house anyway, but today I had a stroke of genius… COOKIES! I NEED COOKIES!!… wait… I mean, super-healthy cookie-type-things! YES! Something yummy that my toddler can snack on without needing to be watched like a hawk, and will fortify her with protein + vegetables!

The recipe I developed requires only 4 ingredients, 5 minutes of prep time, and is so delicious that I keep snacking on them myself… I seriously can’t stop. The carrots are what really tie it all together, as they add a bit of sweetness and are just perfect with the peanut butter. Carrots have a lot of awesome health benefits too, as do the other ingredients: rolled oats, peanut butter, and eggs. Here is the recipe:

CARROT PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
(makes about 24 baby-sized cookies)
3 cups rolled oats
2 medium sized carrots, grated or finely diced (approximately 1 cup)
4 eggs (or other binding ingredient)
2 large heaping spoonfuls peanut butter (approximately 4 tbsp)
optional dab of butter or oil (to make softer)

Super-easy Directions:
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– Mix all ingredients together in a bowl + then roll out tiny (baby-sized) cookies onto a greased baking tray.
– Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes
– Yum!

Being Controlled by Being ‘In Control’

I am a person who likes to have a plan. I like efficiency and cleanliness. “A place for everything, and everything in its place”, as they say. I usually think that having everything clean, organized, and well planned will make me feel “in control”, and therefore safe and happy… but in reality, it DOESN’T. In reality, I often become uptight about “the plan” and end up becoming very upset if (and when) things don’t work out exactly as I think they should. When my husband leaves a dirty dish in the office, it is a travesty. When I am running late for a casual lunch with a friend, the world is surely about to end.

Today while taking a walk, I was planning out how when I got home, first I would clean the dishes while Brian watched the baby, then make a specific dinner, and so on. But I suddenly realized that this kind of thinking (which I often do) doesn’t add to my happiness, or even make things happen more efficiently. In fact, this kind of thinking just makes me rigid and less able to handle change. I squeeze myself around the thoughts of “it NEEDS to be this way” and I become a prisoner. So I said to myself: “I release you”. And it felt pretty good. In that moment, I was freeing myself from the NEED to know how the rest of my day would turn out. I was not giving up control– I was refusing to BE controlled by my thoughts!

Of course, this is something that you need to do repeatedly, in every new moment, for it to make any real difference at all. So I kept saying it all evening: “I release you!”, while unclenching myself from whatever new thought I had decided was important in that moment. And remarkably, the dishes still got washed, dinner still got made, the baby still got fed + washed + put to bed. Everything that needed to happen happened the way it needed to happen. I did not have to plan the sequence out beforehand. I did not have to be in control of the details. Certain things happened that I would have normally interpreted as happening “wrong”, but I did not mind– I was having an amazing time!

I am still a person who likes cleanliness, and efficiency, and plans. I am still a person who writes lists that reference my OTHER lists. But in this moment, I am realizing more deeply that I can DO all of that with joy instead of rigidity!

Why Tantrum-throwing Children Aren’t “Brats”


Imagine that you have just heard the most upsetting news of your life (your best friend died, your home town was bombed, etc.) and picture yourself totally LOSING IT. You’re on the ground crying, overwhelmed by suffering, and not even noticing/caring if anyone else is witnessing it. Now picture your partner responding to your suffering by angrily whispering “Be quiet! Behave!“, and maybe even smacking you a few times. Picture a crowd around you frowning, saying “What a spoiled brat“!

We generally think of a child’s tantrum as different from REAL suffering, because the child’s reasons for being upset “aren’t valid”.

It’s been a while since we were that small, and most adults have forgotten what it actually felt like to be a toddler. But people who DO remember describe it the same as the scenario above– as if they’d just heard the most upsetting news of their lives, and had no ability to cope with the resulting intense emotions.

If someone is experiencing suffering, then they are experiencing suffering. The reason behind it absolutely doesn’t matter, but we often dismiss people’s suffering if we don’t agree that they SHOULD be upset (especially if that person is a toddler). But if someone is upset, they SHOULD be. Here’s why:
* They don’t have the skills of dealing with stress in any other way yet (or in that specific moment).
* There may be factors that we aren’t aware of that are adding to the upset. The reason you can see might have merely been the “last straw”.
* What is upsetting to one person might not be upsetting to another. Just because you don’t understand WHY it is upsetting, that doesn’t mean the other person isn’t experiencing real grief.

So I’m just supposed to GIVE IN or I’m traumatizing my kid?
No that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that once a tantrum has begun, the best way of dealing with it is by giving the child the sort of interaction someone would want if they were experiencing REAL GRIEF (hug them and show them genuine love). Of course, showing genuine love is sometimes a difficult task if YOU are also upset in that moment. An “I love you” coming from a stressed parent just isn’t going to cut it. Kids pick up on your stress, and then escalate.

How do you LOVE when stressed?
Love is an action, and so is stress– they are not just happening to you at random. You can decide in the moment which one you want to embrace. It is unrealistic to expect a toddler to be able to recognize that their tantrum is something they are DOING (instead of happening to them), but YOU have a better chance at realizing this and turning your own silent tantrum back toward the direction of calm + peace. It is easy to think of a child’s tantrum as a problem that demands an immediate solution. But really, the best thing you can possibly do is be aware of your emotional state– be aware of the physical sensations in your chest– breathe– and notice that you can be present and compassionate in the middle of the storm.

Other resources:
Here’s what Dr. Sears has to say about tantrums
And here’s some tips from “Happiest Toddler on the Block” Author Dr. Karp

Liver Recipe that is TASTY… Not Just Tolerable!

Ever since I got pregnant, I have been having a severe problem getting enough B12 (to the point of severe bruising + constant dizziness/fatigue). Supplements don’t do the trick for me, and even eating meat doesn’t help unless I eat a LOT of it. I reluctantly gave up being vegan and went straight for the most efficient + plentiful source of B12: BEEF LIVER. The only problem is that I hate liver! The smell, the taste, the concept… it all = eww. But it gives me so much energy and makes me feel amazingly healthy, not to mention dramatically increases my breast-milk production, and is CHEAP! So I’ve been searching for a way to eat it without having to hold my breath the whole time, and I believe I’ve found it at last.

This is a liver recipe that is actually edible. Dare I say… DELICIOUS? It is suitable for a main course, even when you’re having company over! I would eat it in a house and I would eat it with a mouse, and I would eat it here or there. Say, I would eat it ANYWHERE!

I adapted it from this Indian masala recipe, taking out the sugar and just making it a little easier for the lazy/busy people out there (like me). The spices don’t have to be these exact measurements– feel free to play around and substitute!

Ingredients :
1 pound grass-fed beef liver
2 medium-sized onions (chopped)
2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups cooked + strained lentils
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
6-8 tbsp oil (I used homemade chicken schmaltz)
salt to taste

Directions:
– Boil the liver in salted water till it is almost tender (10-15min)
– At the same time, cook all other ingredients (except for the lentils) in a covered frying pan on medium heat.
– Drain the liver and cut into tiny slices.
– Add the liver and lentils to the pan.
– Lower heat and simmer uncovered, about half an hour.
– Prepare to be amazed!

COOKING TIME = 45min.
SERVING SIZE = 6-8 servings

Birthing as Awareness Practice

I was the type of person who would immediately dose up on pain killers at the first sign of a headache. But when I became pregnant, I knew that I wanted to have an “all natural” birth without any drugs or interventions. How could I possibly prepare for such a thing? I mean, I was headed toward the most physically intense experience of my life and I couldn’t even handle a little headache! I watched “Birth As We Know It” and “Orgasmic Birth” (both excellent films), and read “Birthing From Within” from cover to cover. These things were very inspiring, but I knew that in the heat of the moment, there was no way that I’d be thinking about that “inspirational thing I read about inner strength that one time”.

At some point I realized that there was actually nothing I could do to make myself have an ideal birthing experience. Everybody’s birth is different, and you can’t know beforehand how it will all unfold. I realized that I would have to learn how to be ok with whatever happened, even if it happened in an unexpected way. I started practicing being ok with THIS MOMENT, in every new moment (without a story about what happened before and what might/should happen next). I just kept noticing my body sensations, what I was hearing/seeing, etc., without focusing on my thoughts about any of it. And something awesome began to happen. I noticed that my experience of reality was largely based upon my interpretations of what was actually happening.

For example: In the past when I would get a headache, I would immediately start thinking something like “Oh no! This is a headache and it is gonna suck!”. But I noticed that without that description, there was just the sensation in THAT MOMENT, and it changed from moment to moment. When I started to think “This is pain, and pain is BAD!”, I would start to tense up my body and mind, and THAT was what actually made the experience so horrific. Without the story, it was just a squeezing sensation, and eventually it passed.

Ok, sure. But can that really work during CHILDBIRTH?

Yes! But you might have to practice it a lot beforehand for it to become second-nature. All throughout the last couple months of my pregnancy, I spent most of my time noticing my body sensations and what I was hearing/seeing/experiencing, and noticing that my thoughts about all of this profoundly altered my experience of it. I practiced being aware in every new moment that I remembered that I could. I had no real background in meditation, but I have come to understand that this is what I was doing. I was basically meditating for 2 months.

So when the time came to give birth, I felt a calmness and a trust in my body. I experienced every intense sensation that came along with labor, without a story of “pain” or “suffering”. And thus, I did not experience any of it as pain or suffering! I went into a deep trance, and envisioned being in a cave with drums beating. I felt a powerful spiraling energy moving through me, and I trusted that it knew what to do. All I had to do was to let it move through me, without tensing up or trying to stop it.

A “contraction” is that intense spiraling energy pushing through you, and people experience it as pain when they try to fight against it by clenching down on it or “being tough” to get through it. It is like huge waves in an ocean, and you can either try to fight them (and lose), try to ignore them (and they will hit you anyway), or you can RIDE them!

I was surprised to find that I didn’t need all the hysterical screaming like you see in movies. I made some low groaning noises when I felt moved to, as the energy was moving through me. Much of the time I remained silent. The midwife said that she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a woman with such focus during labor. To me, it felt effortless because I was not DOING something extra; I was merely letting myself have the experience. At one point I made a noise and she said something like “was that a contraction?”. Her speaking brought me out of the trance and I realized that perhaps I should let everyone know that I had already gone into the final (pushing) phase some time ago. My nurse, midwife, and husband all swooped over as soon as I told them. I thought it was funny because I felt like their presence was totally unnecessary. I was doing fine on my own, and feeling powerfully awesome. Moments later, little Ariana burst into the world.

Later, I realized that just because I had already gone through the intensity of labor did not mean that I had to stop using this meditation practice. Now, when I am experiencing each new moment, and noticing how my thoughts change my experience of it, I have so much more enjoyment from life. Some people have esteemed gurus as their “spiritual teachers”. I had pregnancy as mine.

Yummy Kasha Protein Bars recipe (gluten-free sugar-free!)

I wanted to have a healthy protein-rich snack that I could easily eat while out on adventures with the baby (and that she can eat too, without getting crud all over her clothes). Protein bars seemed like the way to go, but packaged stuff is all made from horrible ingredients, or overpriced. I decided to look up a recipe for gluten-free/sugar-free protein bars, figuring I could probably just make my own bars for cheap… and couldn’t find ANY decent recipes!

So I made my own…

I picked buckwheat groats (kasha) as the base ingredient, because it is gluten-free and has many health benefits. I used peanut butter as my protein source, but any nut butter could be used. For extra protein, you could also add stuff like nuts, seeds, flax, etc. I didn’t use sweeteners, but you certainly could if you wanted to, and I added a suggested measurement to the recipe for those who would find that helpful. You could also add all sorts of fun additional flavors like: cocoa powder/nibs, coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, etc…

Chewy Kasha Protein Bars
prep time: 15min. cook time: 25 min.
serving size: makes about 20 3″x3″ squares

ingredients:
– 3 cups kasha (buckwheat groats)
– 1 cup almond milk, coconut milk, or water
– 1 cup peanut butter or other nut butter (cashew, almond, etc)
– 1/2 cup flax seeds
– 1 tbsp butter or coconut oil (optional)
– 1 tbsp agave or juice concentrate (optional)
– pinch salt
– fun additional flavors like: cocoa powder/nibs, coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, etc. (optional)

1. Bring the water/milk, flax seeds, and 2 cups of the kasha to a near boil (save 1 cup of dry kasha for later). Add the butter or oil. Reduce heat and cook until thick (about 10 minutes).

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked kasha with the remaining 1 cup of dry kasha, and all the other ingredients.

3. Spread the dough evenly on a 12″x16″ well-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cut into bars or squares when cooled.