Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The ABC's of Feelings

Happy Hippo, Angry Duck
My daughter's first primer of emotions. We've been reading Sandra Boynton's Happy Hippo, Angry Duck to her since she was an infant. Teaching her about feelings is as important to our family as learning the alphabet.

I never learned how to make friends with my feelings as a child. Squash them down like a bug was more like it. In my family, showing emotion is considered a sign of weakness.

I'd like for my toddler, Claire, to learn to hold hands with her feelings, as she makes her way on this winding road called life. Over the years, I've witnessed how emotions tend to come out sideways if you don't.  

When I'm my best self, I'm able to put into practice what the experts suggest about helping children nurture their emotional self, such as learning to acknowledge feelings and name emotions. At other times, I realize that I still need to grow my own emotional life...and I'm just a wee bit older than the tender age of a child...


When Claire's angry and throwing one of her toddler fits (which involves a howl like a combination of a scream and crying). I try to breathe and soothe myself. But I feel my blood pressure rising. I feel like she's playing the violin on an attenuated nerve in my neck. I know she's got it in for me and only me, and I want to yell, "STOP! YOU'RE GIVING ME A CORONARY!"

Or when she's scared of the balloon; yes, I hold her and comfort her. Yet my own anxiety rises. "What? She's afraid of a balloon?" I think, as I project strange stories into thin air about my daughter's now entirely fraught future. "She's going to be afraid of everything! How's she going to manage in life, if she's scared of a balloon?!" I have to fight the urge to diminish her fear. I want so badly to say something like, "That's not scary. It's just a balloon!"

The worst is when she's sad. I want to sweep that icky feeling away like it's the bogeyman! I can't stand it when she's sad. When I see tears of hurt running down her face, I want to immediately make her feel better, bypass the big, bad emotion altogether. "Don't worry. Don't be sad. Let's make it better!," I find myself wanting to say -- discounting her feelings altogether instead of making space for her psychic reality.

Really, that's what I want to do with all of her emotions: make space for them. In my own life, I have found that when I invite my feelings along for the ride, they allow me to be the one in the driver's seat. I would like for my daughter to be the one driving too. 

Most of the time, I'm able to keep my thoughts in my head and let Claire be right where she needs to be. But it's far from easy. I find it hard enough just allowing me to be me, let alone Claire. 

Maybe, I need to start consulting the feelings book more often, as well.

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Photo Source: Pink Sherbet Photography, Fotopedia. This photo has been adapted and does not suggest that the licenser endorses me, its use or this blog.  License

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Not Your Father's Old MacDonald

I doubt you'll ever find goats screaming like victims of torture over at Old MacDonald's place. But that's what my husband's teaching my daughter. He's obsessed with this video on Youtube, which, I must admit, is very funny. You should check it out. 

I'm not so sure that my daughter should be watching it, though. We're already so removed from nature as it is. We have to drive an hour plus from NYC to get to Stone Barns, which is a really cool working farm in Westchester County. The place is great, but, in truth, we go about once or twice a year for a couple hours.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Claire, George and chickens at Stone Barns

Instead, Claire has Youtube, which is right at our fingertips. Much to my dismay, she gets to learn about animals secondhand through a virtual source. She gets to see that the magic of computer technology transforms animals into burping, screaming and/or crying humans. Funny, yes. Educational, no.

In a few years, I think she might be old enough to join in on the fun. Until then, I think it's a good idea that she learn the real sounds that animals make first.

George would probably tell me to lighten up a bit. After all, it's only a video. In response, I would say that I'd be happy to make a deal with him. He gets the screaming goats video, if I get more family trips to Stone Barns when the weather gets warmer...

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

My little one is old enough for little white lies. She's not the one doing the lying. I am (hangs head in shame at this now public confession).


All of the sudden, my baby is a person who can understand others, have conversations and express her needs...which means I have begun to lie to her. It certainly wasn't part of my plan. My lying seems to have developed out of expediency…

When she wants to visit the neighbor's daughter and I don't feel like it..."Jane's at school right now" (on a weekend).

When she wants to watch Elmo on my smartphone for the thousandth time..."The phone's not working" (someday, it's going to ring at the same time I'm expressing this falsehood).

When she asks for a cookie..."they're all gone" (not really, just not interested in a sugar high right now and/or more for me later).

When she wants to go to the indoor pool at my gym..."The pool is closed" (way too much hassle to take her to the pool every time she asks)

I could go on. There are more. And I have an overarching rationalization for them all. It's just that I reprimand her and say "no" so much during the day…."stay out of the garbage", "the markers aren't for furniture", "you can't come up on me while I'm cooking"…on and on.

Why not make a few of the "no's" not about her or me? Why not blame some of the "no's" on an external source? She seems to like these other reasons better too, which means fewer power struggles and tantrums.

That's better for both of us, right? 

But I know there are insidious downsides to this philosophy too. When she's a bit older, she's going to catch on and I'm gonna get busted in a lie. Talk about undermining my own authority. I don't think I'm ready for that interaction. Eventually, I'm going to have to really tell her the truth, which is that "mama sometimes says no, and you have to listen whether you like it or not". I'm merely delaying the inevitability of this stoic life lesson. 

And, ethically, can you ever really get away with a lie? I'm not sure. 

I don't know if I'm strong enough to be take a more ethically pure stance on this issue right now, though. It seems so much easier to tell her what we both want to hear. 

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

 Photo Source: Stallio, Flickr, this photo has been altered and does not suggest the licenser endorses it or this blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Table Manners of a Lesser Primate

Have you ever been rewarded for your child's good behavior? Nope? Me neither.

One family in Washington state got $4.00 off of their restaurant bill, because their children displayed excellent table manners during their meal. Some people reacted negatively to the story, saying that families shouldn't be compensated for doing what they should for free. What do you think? Personally, I just got a kick out of it.

But, being the mom of a toddler, I immediately thought about all the things a restaurant could do to help families with young children have a peaceful dining experience. Things that don't involve cash bribes. 

I'd like to hand out the following manifesto as a pamphlet to any restaurant employee willing to listen:

1) Put us at a table in the back, the one near the kitchen and/or bathrooms, the one no one else wants. Yeah, that one. We want it. There's no need to be in the thick of things. We'd prefer to be out of everyone's way. We want to be secluded, segregated even, on our own island of chaos.

2) Before we sit down, take away the plethora of breakable items that incorporate the standard restaurant table set-up. There's just way too much going on to tempt tiny little fingers. Oh, and don't just stack them to the side, unless you're trying to create a tower for my child to desire to knock over.

3) Realize that many things about our dining experience will need to be expedited. Bring the drink in a plastic cup and the bread quickly. Anything novel and unbreakable will serve to occupy tiny hands. 

4) When our menu closes (which should happen quickly), take our order right away. Let us know if any of our order requires extra cooking time. Many a diner may want to indulge in your made-to-order risotto. We don't, no matter how much the chef swears by it. We'll just choose something else instead. Simple, right?

5) Expedite the cooking. I used to work in a restaurant. I know that our ticket can go right to the front of the line. I don't consider it cutting; I suggest you think of it more like triage. We're doing everyone a favor, really. The sooner we eat, the sooner we're out. And everyone wants us out, including other patrons, including us.

6) Don't say the word desert too loudly, unless you either a) want us to stay longer (you know you don't) or b) want to incite a tantrum.

7) One last thing to expedite: the bill. I'll go back to #5. We all want us gone. We won't take it personally, I promise.

8) Know that we know we're a pain. We know that our presence is a special circumstance that requires special treatment. We know our child possesses the table manners of a lesser primate. We're working on it. And we're doing the best that we can. It would be great if you could too.

9) Know that we don't venture out from our cave that often. It's either a) a very special circumstance, like a family obligation that has been timed by the hosts to occur at exactly the same time as our child's nap or usual bedtime or b) We have just plain had it: 1) Our house has no food in it, 2) We've been up all night with a child who has decided that night is day, 3) Our babysitter cancelled at the last minute, 4) etc., etc. ETC!!

9) Your efforts will be gratefully reflected in the tip and in our speedy departure.

If restaurants would follow my manifesto, we probably wouldn't need discounts on the bill to keep kids happy and well-behaved. Well, maybe, "well-behaved" is stretching it a bit. But we'll head off a few disasters by following my advice.

It takes a village, right?

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Who's Your Daddy?

My love for my husband, George, has remained steadfast over the years. If anything, it's grown stronger since having a child. What I find sexy about him has changed though:

1) Having my back soaped in the shower was great, but it's sexier when he puts a lather on the dishes in the sink now.

2) Buff abs used to turn me on. Now, a spit shine on the kitchen table puts me over the moon.

3) I used to wait for his calls. Now, it's sexy when he calls the babysitter and surprises me with some time for the two of us.

4) Partying into the wee hours was one of our things. Now, there's nothing lovelier than snuggling into bed together at 10PM.

5) We used to sleep in together in the morning. Now, I love it when he gets up early with Claire and lets me sleep in all alone.

6) Being wined and dined by candlelight used to light my fire. Now, I like it when he wakes up early to make his two favorite girls banana-walnut pancakes.

7) His kisses are warm, but nothing makes me warmer than watching him love our daughter.

8) I still like it when he says, "I love you". But hearing him say "I love you, Claire" is the best of all.

Happy Valentines Day to the best husband a gal could ask for!

love spelled out in red and white
Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Photo Source: Sister72, Flickr

It's Easy Wearing Green (Diapers)

Marco Rubio has inspired me to write a post about green diapers. In case you don't see the connection between the two, here goes…In the Republican response to the State of the Union address, Rubio stated that the U.S. can't responsibly take on climate change, as long as other countries around the globe continue to pollute. 

In the Tao of Poop response to the Republican response to the State of the Union address, I would like to ask Marco Rubio what happened to the Republican notion of personal responsbility? If all his friends jumped off the fiscal cliff, would he be so inclined to join them?

I'm more worried about climate change since having Claire. Yet, it often feels easier to throw up my hands than to commit to things that could help ensure my daughter inherits a world as beautiful as she is. That doesn't mean that I blame China on my ecological failings, though. 

One thing we've have found easy to do is to switch to more environmentally-friendly diapers. We've been using Naty diapers, by Nature Babycare for about a year. 

environmentally-friendly diapers
Naty by Nature Babycare

They work. I am not exaggerating when I say, NO ACCIDENTS! Naty diapers are just as good as the other more recognizable brands. In fact, in many ways they are better. They are unscented. If you've ever taken a whiff while standing in the diaper aisle, you know that the scent is enough to make you nauseous. I started to worry about putting that much perfume on my daughter every day. Plus, they don't come with any cartoon characters plastered on them. It's a pet peeve. I just don't see why diapers need to have cartoon characters on them. It's like putting pearls on a pig. But the main reason we buy them is that Naty diapers are chlorine free, made of non-oil based products, and biodegradable. 

Naty diapers are more expensive, coming in at $0.40 per diaper on, as opposed to $0.23 for Pampers. We spend around a dollar or so more a day for diapers now. I choose to think of this extra money as added incentive to potty train. And I can make up the cost by giving up a few lattes a week -- with another bonus of less garbage in a landfill.

I have not been paid for this product review nor have I received anything in return for writing it. I just wanted to share an easy green tip for anyone who might be interested. 

I figure if I can convince even one parent of the value of these more environmentally-friendly diapers, I won't have to feel so guilty about the giant, plastic toy house that we inherited, which will probably end up rotting in a landfill someday.

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I'm loathe to add my thoughts on Valentine's Day to the world according to bloggy moms, because a) there's no lack for posts on the subject and b) I really don't have much nice to say about the holiday.

But I promise to make my complaints short, as well as to deliver a happy ending. Indeed, I even give you permission to skip right to the end, if you want (as if you needed my permission anyway)…

George and I are 0 for 4 for gifts in recent history. Our anniversary, his birthday, Christmas and my birthday all came and went without a gift. While this state of affairs certainly isn't reflective of how much we love each other, the "too busy" excuse is getting rather old. But, alas, I doubt February 14th will prove any different. 

It isn't George's fault. I don't like Valentine's Day. The holiday makes me passive aggressive. Anytime someone gives me a command to be nice to another person, I want to do the exact opposite. And since George and I aren't into S&M, there's really no way for me to act out this impulse in a clean kind of way. 

Plus, there were the many years that I boycotted the holiday due to, well, due to being perpetually single and not having a choice in the matter. During these times, my in-a-perfectly-perfect marriage mother would send flowers to me. While nice, the subtext of this gesture was extreme pity for my situation. Each fragrant bloom seemed to scream out to me, "Oh, poor, lonely, pathetic you! Someday, you'll find a man!" I don't like a holiday that discriminates against people on such an arbitrary thing as relationship status.

But my aversion to the holiday doesn't mean I don't believe in the power of love and the beauty of relationships. So, without further ado…here's the happy ending (Wait, you didn't really skip to the end, did you? Go back! Read about ME, dammit!…oh, sorry…) 

My bloggy mom friend Kristi from Finding Ninee shared a Valentine's Day project that I think is awesome.

special needs couple
Cool drawing by Kristi Campbell

You can send a Valentine's Day card via snail mail or the internet to a couple with special needs, who is celebrating their four-month wedding anniversary! (collective "awww", everyone!) As a former special educator, I love hearing stories that break through stereotypes about people with disabilities.  Go to her blog, Finding Ninee, to find out more about the project. 

It's sweet. Kristi's sweet. Valentine's Day's sweet, right? So this ends my sweet addition to Valentine's Day. 

Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day to my one and only, dear and lovely husband, George!

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Are You There God? It's Me, Rachel

sun shining through the clouds

MEMORANDUM                                            PRIORITY: URGENT                                                                         


To:  Powers that be

Fr:  Rachel Demas, The Tao of Poop

Re:  Toddler Tantrums

First, let me take a moment to thank you for the opportunity to engage in toddler tantrums at the tender age of 18 months old. While we thought our daughter was a bit young for such behavior, we remain optimistic that getting a jump on the situation now will serve as great preparation come the dreaded "terrible twos" stage. Actually, the terrible twos brings me to the central issue of this memo.

It was my impression that tantrums this frequent, illogical, random, protracted, unpredictable, overwhelming, and unmanageable should commence when my daughter reaches the age of two, preferably on her birthday and not a day sooner. To my knowledge, they are upon us now. The early onset of this situation has me shocked and confused, and brings me to a question and a request.

Question: Will my daughter's tantrums get worse when she turns two? Given our current circumstance, I don't see how this scenario is possible. I write seeking your reassurance that this fear is as irrational as my daughter's recent tantrums seem to me. Your reassurance in this matter will allow me to move forward knowing that, indeed, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Request: Because my daughter's tantrums began at 18 months old, I would beseech you to relieve us of their burden by the time my daughter is two and a half. I realize I'm probably not the first parent to solicit your intercession on his or her behalf, and have no other special circumstances to report, which would have given my case additional merit. Further, I am aware that, as a first-time parent, I may appear naive about some of the vicissitudes of a toddler's behavior. However, I merely ask that you see the logic in my math. If the terrible twos start six months early (as, indeed, they have for us), I believe they should end six months early as well.

Please find attached requisite form OP-160 for your review. In advance, I appreciate that you have taken this missive under advisement. Further, I realize that you must be extremely busy with other pressing issues from desperate parents like me, so I would like to thank you for your attention in this matter.

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Photo Source: John Fera, Wikipedia, license

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Tale of Two Spa Days

My blogger mom friend Deb from Urban Moo Cow wrote a post recently about getting a facial and leaving feeling old. It's not true; check out her profile picture. She looks fab. And she runs marathons, but I digress.

I told her she got snowed. I wasn't trying to be mean. I was commiserating. The same thing happened to me…

Behold two tales…one of a facial, the other a massage. Both stories commence in similar fashion: I relax into the hands of a trained professional, and my body releases some of the stress of the day. Forty minutes later, each spa day experience starts to go in a different direction…

My facial conversation:

"Your skin is very dehydrated," the lady aesthetician says.

"Yeah. I should drink more water," I say.

"That's probably what's causing your skin to be so dry…" she says. "And these dark circles around your eyes."

"Oh," I say, starting to feel like a slob, dummy and loser. I begin projecting all kinds of crap into the conversation. She's saying one thing, but here's what I hear:

"Lucky you came in in time, because there's still hope, but just barely. Aveda makes x, y and z that can help with your giant failure to take care of your skin," she says. "Along with this, this and this for the kitchen sink of facial issues you've created for yourself. Oh, and, if you want to stop looking old, here's the other magic elixir for all of those wrinkles and fine lines that are like crevices all over your face."

She brings out a large green jar with great ceremony. It seems surrounded by a glow with heavenly powers. I hear the skies part, along with a violin crescendo. I'm at a crossroads in life --  either buy it, or future generations of my family will suffer the consequences.

An hour later, I leave the store weighed down with a green bag and a heavy heart, plus a resolve to do better by my skin, my country and the world. I feel some sort of moral imperative to exfoliate more.

Contrast that to my massage conversation:

"You carry a lot of stress in your shoulders," the masseuse says.

"Yeah, I have a one year old. I had her when I was older. Some of my stress comes from feeling like I'm too old and tired to keep up with her," I explain.

"Your an older mom?" she says. "How old are you?"

"I'm 45," I say.

"No! Really?" she says. "Your skin looks amazing. I never would have guessed that age and I see lots of skin. What do you use on your skin?

"Coconut oil..." I say. "Like the kind you use to cook with. I know it sounds crazy, but it's cheap and I have really dry skin, so it works for me."

"Wow, I have dry skin too. I'll have to give that a try," she says.

coconut oil and skincare
Coo Coo over Coconut Oil

I leave here feeling light as a feather, exactly how I should feel after a massage (and a facial for that matter).

The difference in my two tales? The first woman probably did have a mandate from above -- her superiors. Instill fear in me, shill a bunch of products and add a hefty commission to her meager salary. The second didn't have anything to sell other than her lovely, magic fingers.

Of course, the masseuse was looking for a nice tip; it's possible that money was part of her agenda too. All I know is that I felt much better after the massage. The facial was a different story.

I haven't been back for a facial since. If I ever get another wild hair to go back to Aveda, I've left a green bottle of toner in my medicine cabinet as a cautionary tale.

I mean, come on, I fell for toner? Honestly, I really don't even know what toner is!

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Monday, February 4, 2013

Motherhood and The Blues

My husband and I had a bad fight. The kind of fight that sends you off limping and licking your wounds. The kind that makes you wonder whether the wounds are fatal to your relationship. They never are, but you wonder.

I just wrote a post about my tendency to push myself beyond my limits, which turns me into a little dictator and my family into my little minions.

The opposite is also true. I get mired down in the tar pits of inertia. Life's challenges set up camp in my head and I react by retreating. The sink full of dishes goes undone, emails remain unanswered, writing gets neglected. 

My heavy heart feels like a character defect, unworthy of my compassion. I am reminded just how flawed I am. 

Sometimes, I wish that I could be relieved of the responsibility of caring for my daughter...just for awhile.

It's a frightening thing to say. I feel more scared by my reaction to life's rough spots, since having Claire. I can only hope that by speaking of the less savory sides of myself, I can give them voice and let them go.

I desperately want to find a balance between so many things:

taking care of me and taking care of my daughter

showing my daughter that I am a flawed woman, while being a safe, constant presence in the world for her

teaching her that we are all complex and weak, while striving to be a good example of what's right about humanity as well. 


I tell myself that my daughter won't be deeply scarred by a sink full of dishes. I remind myself that I have chosen to let some things go, so that I can focus what little extra energy I have on her. I remember that I don't withhold any love and attention from her, when I feel this way. I know she's too young to know that there is a sink full of dishes anyway. God has given me time.

But what if I don't get my act together in time? All I can do is believe.

I don't aspire to be like Donna Reed. We will never be the Cosby's. I know that George and I are not going to stop fighting every now and then. I know that life is going to have its challenges.

That's all ok. But I want Claire to learn to be more resilient than me. Hell, I want me to be more resilient than me!

Connect with: FBTwitterG+Pinterest

Photo Source: Artemis-Twitches, Deviant Art.  License This photo has been altered and does not suggest that the licenser endorses me, its use, or this blog.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mothering, Mussolini-Style

The Demas family had a bad morning getting out of the house the other day. Or perhaps it's more accurate to say I had a rough start. 

We were off to a family get-together and the stars were not aligning for a swift exit. Usually, my stellar time management skills make up for the added tasks that a baby implies. Bad circumstances along with poor strategic planning made this trip different. 

First, Claire would only go to mama. George and I usually attack getting ready by handing off our daughter to one another, like a baton in a relay race. On this day, Claire had other things in mind. As did the weather, which decided to change seasons overnight. Locating and ironing clothes for both Claire and me with said daughter on my hip is not in my repertoire. While working one-handed, I was reminded of a sick challenge devised for a competition reality show like Survivor (except that I had no chance of winning a million dollars for my efforts). 

What's more, I was shuttling between the bedroom and the kitchen to make the dish we needed to bring (nothing like waiting 'til the last minute).  In general, chopping, mixing, and stirring while a child hangs on my apron strings wears me out. Add a deadline to get out the door, and I feel I'm going to boil over like the pot on the stove. 

I know what you're thinking: "Couldn't the free-handed husband cook and/or clothe the child?" To this query, my martyr self replies, "No. He would have ruined it".

I was actually pulling off most of the shitshow. It’s part of an illness, actually -- trying to push myself beyond my own limits to see what I am capable of doing. I end up feeling sickly proud of myself. The flip-side of the coin is that I feel exhausted and resentful as well -- bad for me and bad for the people around me. I remind myself of Mussolini, keeping the trains running on time while losing track of humanity altogether. 

Benito Mussolini

Babies have a way of finding your Achilles heel, though. My obsession with productivity can make me forget what’s really important -- being in the moment, enjoying my child and husband, respecting my own needs and those of the people around me. 

Sorry, Mr. Mussolini, we will just have to be late next time.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...