Category Archives: Parenting

Unexpected kindness. And why Nico is banned from Monterey Market.

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Nico is hereby banned from our local produce store.

You know the kind. That grocery store with the small aisles and even smaller carts. The carts you can’t strap your child into because they have somehow, at only 3, gotten too big to wedge their legs into. The kind of grocery store that is always bustling with shoppers and if you are prone to anxiety, you might have to avoid altogether.

The first thing Nico does when we enter the store is sprint for the bin food. He has identified which bins hold the jelly beans and gummies and he frantically grabs as many as he possibly can before the inevitable mama shutdown happens – me, furrowed brow, scolding him and picking him up. Since the bins are only a few feet from the cashiers, I feel like I have to exaggerate my disapproval, say it loud enough so they hear it and then look at them apologetically.

As we wind our way through the store, he reaches out and nabs grapes, pears, raspberries, whatever he can get his little chubby hands on. By the end of the trip, I am left with a cart full of half-eaten fruit – a small price to pay really for keeping him walking next to me.

But the last time we went, I let him sprint off to another aisle while I paid. As I swiped my card, I nervously looked around but trusted that I would find him once I got my bags. I told myself to breathe and kept my eye in the direction of the shampoo aisle where he had darted. When I found him, he was standing with a grandmotherly type who was giving me the stink eye. “You really should watch him more closely,” she scolded. I looked down and saw that Nico had been pulling the caps off of every lip balm he could get his hands on and rubbing them all over his face.

His cheeks were glossy and moist.

I relayed this story to a friend the other day and we laughed… and I wonder why these stories can feel so painful in the moment. The shaming look in that woman’s eyes, the you-are-a-terrible-mother glare that makes you want to cry and hide and ban your child forever from going shopping with you. The kind that makes you grab your baby a bit too roughly and usher him out with a firm “NO!”

It reminds me of a story Brene Brown told about a woman whose card was declined at the gas station and when her 2 year old started crying in the carseat, she lost it and screamed at him. Ugh. We have all been there. The shame that leads to unskilled behavior…

Nico had a meltdown when we got to the sidewalk outside the market. “NO! I DON’T WANT TO WALK!” he shouted and plopped his tush down on the sidewalk. Please come Nico. I can’t carry you with all these bags…

It was getting dark.

“Do you guys need a ride?” A kind voice emerged from the car idling next to us. “I heard you talking. I’m happy to take you. But I don’t have a car seat.”

I surveyed the situation. Steep hill in front of us and a sweet older woman next to us.
Unexpected kindness.
We got in and she drove us up and over the hill. Nico was thrilled to be strapped in a simple seatbelt next to me and he beamed.

Unexpected kindness is some of the best possible medicine. And when it shows up, it’s good to say yes.

Her gesture was simple. The ride was all of 90 seconds. But it meant everything to us. Those 90 seconds of kindness were just the balm we needed.

Do you have a story of unexpected kindness? What happened?

 

 

Interview with Lisa Byrne about Self-Care for Mamas.

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Self-care isn’t just bubble baths + mani-pedis.

Listen in as I chat with Lisa Byrne about self care for mamas. The real kind. The practice of self-care. Enjoy!

“How do I craft my life so I can show up in the best ways possible? It’s a practice. And what I mean by a practice, is that it’s something that you keep showing up to. By showing up to it, it’s actually changing who you are becoming.” Lisa Byrne

Click here to listen to the interview

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Lisa Grace Byrne is a mother to three and founder of WellGroundedLife.com.  She has a big-hearted vision of a world where every mom is well-equipped to do the tremendous work of mothering from a healthy, whole and supported place.

She is the author of Replenish: Experience Radiant Calm and True Vitality in Your Everyday Life.  Lisa also speaks, coaches and teaches moms worldwide through her online courses and workshops.

Lisa has a degree from Cal Poly State University in Biochemistry with an emphasis in Nutrition and Metabolism. She holds a Masters in Public Health from Boston University and is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor.

She lives in New Jersey with her husband, children and 100 pound yellow lab.

A little ode to Ben.

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Ben in front of his lemonade stand, Berkeley, CA

“Do you know a song about the sun coming?” he asked me. “The sun is coming, the sun is coming…”

“Here comes the sun?” I asked and started to sing.

“Yeah,” he smiled. “Do you know that’s a Beatles song?”

I love this kid.

I love that when he got his first wad of cash, he grabbed a stack of post-it notes and adhered each dollar bill to the walls of his bedroom.

I love that a few weeks ago, when his tooth was loose, he worked it and worked it all day long –  blood on his fingers and lips – until he got it out. (He knew that with the $2 dollar bill he was sure to get from the tooth fairy, he’d have enough for Pokemon cards)

I love his lacy blue eyes and constellation of freckles on his nose.

I love the way he says, “Are you okay mama?” when he sees me cry, and then looks right into my eyes with so much love I can hardly bear it. A healing laser beam of love.

I love the songs he makes up in his room, pop songs with a hard edge, collections of words + phrases that don’t actually go together but are so free and flowing

I love how much he adores his little brother,  how every day he tries to hug him and kiss him. And even though Nico bats him away most of the time, he never gives up.

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I love that in the middle of the night, when Ben is scared, he will go to Nico’s crib and hoist him into his arms and put him in his own bed for company.

I love that ever since he was an infant, he has had this bright spark in him. He is one of those people that is lit from the inside, someone you can’t help but want to be near.

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Ben, Berkeley, CA

Ben, Berkeley, CA

*This piece was inspired by World Gratitude Day! A most lovely idea by Alexandra Franzen.

The Mama Monster

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The mama monster reared her head last night.

You know the one. She creeps up despite your best judgment. She surprises you with her ferocity. She roars. Sometimes you exit your body and watch her and think, Wow… who the heck is that? 

One of my friends said something about motherhood that always makes me smile: Until I had kids, I didn’t know I had so much yelling in me. Amen, sister.

So back to last night.

I heard a funny sound coming from the kitchen – something like rain, but more like pebbles falling, like hail. I went in to find Nico had poured an entire can of coffee beans on the ground.

At first I was calm. Oops! Let’s get those beans back in the can… “ but then he started thrashing around, sweeping his little starfish hands as fast as he could to and fro, trying to disseminate the beans as quickly as possible before I shut him down.

The beans flew everywhere – careening through the air, across the kitchen floor, under the stove.

He then proceeded to stomp around and crush them with his chunky, little padded feet.

That’s when the mama monster reared her head. “Stop it Nico!” I shouted. “If you’re not going to help, get out of here!” and I furiously tried to shove the beans back into the can, trying not to include old pieces of macaroni and dust bunnies in each handful.

I roared. But really, I wanted to cry.

It wasn’t a big deal in the end. Some went back in the can. Some got thrown in the garbage. Some are still hiding in the crevices of our home, under the oven. We will find them again one day when we move out.

But in those moments, when the mama monster comes out, it’s never really about the beans. It’s always about the exhaustion and the bills. The overwhelm and the worry. The filthy house and having to make dinner again. (Seriously? Dinner again?)

The trying to get it right and always falling short.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with Ben when he was a toddler:

Ben: (whining and dragging his feet behind me as we walk home from school) I’m roaring and crying.
Me: You’re what?
Ben: Roaring and crying.
Me: I know just how you feel. I roar and cry all the time.
Ben: I’m sad.
Me: What are you sad about?
Ben: I don’t know.
Me: Why don’t you just roar and cry then?
Ben: Okay.

 

The battle for the steering wheel

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Nico and I have a running battle these days.

Nico wants to drive. Yes, like DRIVE THE CAR by himself. He sits in the front seat, asks for the keys, and when I refuse he pushes every switch and button he can possibly find. Wrenching him out of the driver’s seat is nearly impossible. He is a hulk of a 2 year old and you would be shocked at his strength.

I try speaking to him rationally. I tell him that he is welcome to drive in 14 years. I tell him it’s actually illegal and the police are going to arrest him. I tell him he needs to get into his carseat or I’m going to get mad, very mad.

But he just grins at me and turns on the windshield wipers.

I tried the Zen approach several times. I waited him out, pretended I had all the time in the world. I waited for him to be bored with the driver’s seat and say, Okay, let’s go! But no. Even after 45 minutes he was still happy as can be.

It always ends badly.

It ends with me saying, “Okay Nico, you have a choice. You can either get into the backseat by yourself or I’m going to carry you back.” He is silent so I repeat myself. “You. In backseat. Or I come get you.”

He considers this for a moment and then answers in a whisper, “I drive.”

When I grab him he kicks and screams and I pray that no one is in earshot of his wails. I put him in the car seat and he goes as limp as possible, slinks out of my arms and scrambles to get back into the front. I grab him again and put him back in the seat with all my strength. I can feel my blood boiling and I am SO FRUSTRATED that I have to fight him, that even after being patient for 45 minutes, it still ends this way.

I’ve resorted to bribery

But yesterday I did an experiment. I took the coveted gummy vitmains we normally give the kids inside the house and brought them into the car.

“If you want some gummies get into your seat!” Both Ben and Nico scrambled to their seats. They were practically strapped in before I could blink. Worked like a charm! I tried it again when I picked Nico up from school. Score. Slam dunk. That kid was in his seat in 2 seconds flat.

It’s a small thing. But for today (or however many days this lasts) I will not have to wrestle a 2 year old into his car seat. And for me, that is HUGE. And I know it’s bribery, and it’s basically candy, but WHATEVER. Even if it works for one more day it will be worth it.

Just 14 more years Nico. Just 14 more years.

 

How to Be Legendary

Ben rocking out in the kitchen

Ben rocking out in the kitchen

Ben was in a talent show at the local toy store last year.

When I asked him what he’d like to do, he said he’d like to perform one of his songs. His “songs” at the time were a mashup of jewish folk tunes and heavy metal. The likes of which this world might never have seen before!

He practiced outside the toy store with me, “Hine ma tov uma-na-im… (and now insert growly, deep, heavy metal voice) shevet achim gam yavat…”

It was, in short, awesome.

Ben was so excited to get on stage when we entered the store that he insisted on MC’ing the whole thing and asked if he could perform first. As I sat in the audience with my iphone video all ready to go, I saw the surprise in his eyes. It was fear but it was also surprise at how scared he actually was. He didn’t expect this at all! As a result of the sheer, unexpected terror, nothing came out of his mouth.

You can do it! all of us called out. The entire room of kids cheered him on. But he crumpled, literally, and fell to the ground. I can’t do it! he shouted from the floor.

Another kid went instead and did a fart song by putting her hand inside her armpit. (Super impressive I might add) Then a boy who was great at yo-yo did his thing.

Ben was ready to try again. I readied my camera, said a little prayer and all of us cheered again, but he was terrified and ran off the stage.

“Try starting with your back to us!” I encouraged, and that seemed to help. He started his song with his back to the audience and eventually mustered up the courage to turn around. He improvised a song, a hilarious mix of metal and rap and jewishness, and we all cheered when it was over.

He was a bit mortified by the whole thing.

But here’s what I want to share with you: Ben is now LEGENDARY at Mr. Mopp’s toy store in Berkeley. Every time we go in there, the owner says, “Ben! We loved your song at the talent show! You have a lot of fans here.” Other employees will literally come out of the back and gather around. “Ben is here! Yeah, the one from the talent show!”

They love him.

And my guess is that they love him because he was brave.
They love him because he was human.
He was afraid and he went for it anyway.

He sang a song, his song. And even though he couldn’t quite look anyone in the eyes when he did it, he did it anyway.

Ben once asked me what a legend was. I told him it was someone that people talked about for many years after they were gone, even hundreds of years, because they were so extraordinary. “Like Jesus?” he asked. “Yes. Like Jesus. And Miles Davis.”

“I want to be a legend,” he told me.

I think he’s well on his way. And he is teaching me that being brave + vulnerable is key. The crowd loves you all the more for it.

 

 

The family band is starting already.

Nico playing guitar from andrea scher on Vimeo.

An Open Letter to Moms from Kid President

Holy moly. Best thing EVER. I’m in love with Kid President.

On getting more help thank you think you deserve*

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I was honored to participate in the Mother’s Day Rally for Mental Health on Katherine Stone’s blog (Postpartum Progress) this year. Katherine posted letters to new moms from 24 writers who have gone through postpartum depression or anxiety. Each letter is so moving + powerful… and a must-read for your mama friends out there. So many of us don’t realize what we’re going through until we’re on the other side. We don’t get the support we need because we think we don’t deserve it, or that it’s not that bad, or we’re too ashamed…

These letters bust through all of that and share the real deal. So proud to be a part of it. Share it with the moms in your life. My piece is getting more help thank you think you deserve.

 

Ben’s first time in the snow = pure joy for all of us

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Ben collecting pine cones, South Lake Tahoe

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Ben’s first sled ride, with “Husky” the cat and his uncle Steve

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Snowballs

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Happy rosy boy, South Lake Tahoe

When I took the above photo I said, “Let me take a photo! You’re going to want to remember this day forever!”

He replied, “Yeah, cuz it’s the best day of my whole life!”

It is so true that our children’s joy is our joy. Still soaking it up over here as I go through photos…