Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Celebrating Christmas

I was raised in a Conservative Jewish household. I spent many years studying Hebrew and going to Sunday School, attending a synagogue, celebrating only Jewish holidays. Yet I secretly loved Christmas: the decorations, the tree, the beautiful carols and the celebration of the birth of a little baby in a manger.

When I graduated from college and moved to San Francisco I started celebrating Christmas. I loved being able to decorate a tree and feel a part of this holiday away from my family's confused and disapproving eyes. My love for Christmas continues to this day.

This year it finally dawned on my just why I love Christmas so much - aside from the tree and the beautiful songs and lights. I love Christmas because it is the only holiday I am aware of that celebrates the natural birth of a baby. Christmas celebrates the birth of the little baby Jesus and his loving mother Mary. Mary has become a symbol of all that is good and selfless and pure about motherhood. And Jesus is the little innocent babe who is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. Perfect.

Perfect for me whose prefessional career has been devoted to the health and well being of mothers and babies. Christmas in its purest form is a holiday made for me, the original Baby Nut!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Bird Does Not Sing Because It Has An Answer

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song. (Chinese Proverb) There is no "If - Then". There are no conditions to the singing. Cage a bird and - though saddened by the loss of its freedom to take wing - it will still sing.

This applies to humans as well. I heard on NPR about a Jewish man and woman who found love in a concentration camp during WWII. Miraculously they both survived and were able to marry after the war. While everything around them was bleak and full of depravity and despair, they found a way to sing their song of love.

In Yiddish it is called a nigun, a melody, a tune, a song we are forever trying to remember, to recapture and to sing. In the journey to recapture my nigun, I discovered Kirtan, or sacred chant. I play the harmonium and sing chants in Sanskrit and other languages. The words are songs glorifying the divine. The words repeat themselves over and over and the effect is mesmerizing, heart opening. Shivaya Nama Om, Shivaya Nama Ha. By naming and honoring aspects of the divine, I am also honoring my own divinity, my own sacredness.

A baby in the womb first hears its mother's song. The baby is nourished by the cord connecting her to her mother, and she is also soothed and carried by the song she is surrounded by as she floats and grows. Perhaps it is the emergence of the baby's own song that pulls them from the womb. Gradually her own song takes the place of her mother's. Where will that song take her? What bits of melody will inform her life as she grows?

When we are little babies I believe we hear our own song loud and clear. It is so much a part of us that we do not need to sing it aloud, though some of us may try. As we grow older the needs and expectations of others may soon drown out the sound of our own song, our nigun: so many voices clamoring for our attention; so many outer enticements pulling us away from our center. Still the song keeps on singing deep within, high and low, soft and loud, fast and slow. At night before sleep we can almost hear it. In our dreams we catch snatches of the melody.

As our life unfolds we will look for answers. Why? Why is life so hard? So cruel? So unfair? So short? So long? What does it all mean? Why am I here?

Life's longing for itself is the only answer needed. The only condition to the living of life is this: sing your song, your nigun. Only you can sing your uniquely You song. Only you can hear the melody, the words, the rhythm. Only you know when it is soft or loud, high or low, fast or slow. To hear it and to sing it and to live it, you must listen within, to your inmost place, where the nigun of your life goes on.

Monday, November 19, 2007

For Thanksgiving - Simple Gifts

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we want to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight
'Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Shaker hymn.

Happy Thanksgiving to One and All.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Babynut Turns 4! Organic Products Website Is Good for Babies and Good for the Planet.

The web-based business,, will celebrate its fourth birthday on November 6, 2007. Owner and manager of Babynut, Saralee Sky, said, “I started out wanting to offer natural products to support mothers and babies. Now I realize that natural products support the health of our planet as well.”

Ms Sky went on to say, “90 million acres are devoted to the production of cotton worldwide, consuming 25% of all pesticides used on our planet. I now understand that supporting mother and babies is not enough. I must also protect and honor Mother Earth by offering products whose production does not add to pollution or global warming. I also try and investigate how all of my product offerings are manufactured, making sure that workers are treated fairly and paid a living wage.”

Based in Bellingham, Washington, Babynut does business solely on the World Wide Web. Babynut’s mission is to provide natural, organic and alternative products, and support for pregnant and adopting families, babies and toddlers. The site is unique because of its inclusive nature, broad natural product offerings, and articles about natural parenting and about the use of natural, alternative and organic products.

Products for sale include: organic maternity and nursing clothes, organic baby and toddler clothes, books on pregnancy, natural childbirth and parenting, children’s books and music, organic and wooden toys, organic gift baskets, baby carriers, natural body products, homeopathic remedies, flower essences and astrology charts.

Also for sale on the site are Topsy Turvy dolls made with herbs and the Nutpod organic baby sleeping bag, both designed by Ms Sky. Northwest Washington products are showcased whenever possible, including Jody Bergsma prints and cards, Tom Hunter music CD’s, Tree Frog Farm flower essences, Hippie Healing Company organic body products and Shorthand Press organic baby clothes.

For more information about the site, go to: or call 866-671-3679.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Eulogy for Ripley

It is with deep sadness that I tell you about the death of Ripley, our 16 year old Pomeranian yesterday (Sept. 27th). An inoperable, benign tumor in her jaw finally got the best of her. She is survived in death by her mother, Fancy Dancer, 18 years old, and of course, Jer and me.

Ripley was large for a toy Pom, tipping the scales at 14 pounds. In contrast, her mother is barely 6 and ½ pounds. Food was her principal joy, making this tumor doubly troubling.

She had a waddle/swagger to her walk and an irascible nature at times, prompting me to give her the nickname of “Aint Bea” from the Andy Griffith Show. She was not above snapping at a grandson who ran too quickly in her general vicinity. They learned to give her a wide berth. She was the spinster aunt of our household.

Ripley came from Jer’s side of our blended family. After my 15 year old Schnauzer, Daisy Mae, died years ago, she attached herself to me. The last four years that I have been working from home, she was my constant and boon companion, moving from the Babynut office on the second floor, down to the basement to fill orders, back to the office and out to the mail box. She would also sit in the yard with me as I planted or weeded, barking at passersby who thought she was a puppy with her short summer “do”.

Over the last few weeks the tumor grew larger and the secondary infection that weeped through her fur got worse. Her joie de vivre lessened until at last even food held no allure. The Vet came late in the afternoon. Crystal drew two beautiful pictures. One is a portrait of Ripley with the words “We love you, Ripley”. That one was buried with her. The other picture was of me, Jer, Jordan, Crystal, Fancy and Ripley with the words ”We love you, Ripley. Thanks for being our friend.”

The grandkids left for home, and Jer, Fancy and I were in attendance as Ripley breathed her last breath. She is buried under the large wild rose bush near the front porch, where she will be joined by her mother in time. The second picture Crystal drew is hanging in the downstairs bathroom, where Ripley loved to sleep. No longer will growls be heard to surprise unwary users of that toilet.

Rest in Peace, Ripley.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Organic Cotton - Good for the Planet!

I sell organic cotton baby clothes and organic cotton maternity and nursing clothes on Babynut because I truly believe they are good for babies and mothers. Always in my mind the health of the baby was first and foremost. And then I started researching information about organic cotton for an artcile on my web site, Why Use Organic Cotton? I realized as I wrote that article that: not only is organically grown cotton good for baby's skin and mother's skin, organically grown cotton is good for planet Earth!

90 million acres are devoted to the production of cotton worldwide, consuming 25% of all pesticides used on our planet. Genetically modified seed accounts for 50% of the cotton grown in the United States. We can only speculate about the long-term consequences of genetic engineering. Petroleum based hydrocarbons (chemical fertilizers) are intensively applied to cotton crops to speed up and enhance the plant's growth cycle and productivity. The runoff of these chemicals pollutes our watershed and food chains.

Organically grown cotton is not treated with pesticides, herbicides or petroleum based fertilizers, nor does it use genetically engineered seed. In the United States, Egypt, India and other countries, farmers are raising cotton organically, without the use of costly, often ineffective and dangerous chemicals. They are courageously developing alternative sources of the world's favorite natural fiber.

So I have come to the conclusion that whenever I can possibly afford to do so, I will buy organic cotton sheets, towels, clothes, toys, etc. Because if I don't, the health of the planet is at stake.

Friday, September 14, 2007

For my son, Joe

Joe, you have always wanted to see how your middle name - Ananda - looked in Hindi. Well, here it is!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Family Endures

I was talking to my cousin, Helene, on the phone this morning. We talked about a book she is writing about our family. Helene and I are first cousins. Our mothers were sisters. They came to this country from Russia after WWI. Helene is writing the story of our family in Russia and then in America up to the point when all the cousins of our generation were born. I am the youngest cousin of my generation.

Helene said to me, "In essence I am looking for people who no longer exist and I am finding them." She is giving new life to our mothers and aunts and uncles, to our granparents and great grandparents. They will no longer be two dimensional pictures in an old album. She is infusing them with personalities, with hopes and dreams.

"Does family remember family?" she asked me. "There is something that pulls families apart and brings them back together. Something in the DNA that makes us recognize each other."

I agreed with her and, to illustrate her point, will relate a story from my own recent experience, but on the paternal side of my family. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, went to college in Boston, then moved to California. In essence I moved away from my family of origin to find my own way in the world. While I kept in contact with my mother's side of the family, I lost touch with the uncles, aunts and cousins on my father's side.

In the last few years I started to reconnect with some of my first cousins on my father's side of the family, when I came to Pittsburgh to visit with my step mother who lives in a nursing home there. Email helps keep us in touch with each other's lives now and erases time and distance.

A few months ago I got an email from my cousin, Marcia, who got my email address from her brother, Phil. Her father and my father were brothers, which makes us first cousins. We had not seen or heard from each other since we were in high school - over 40 years ago!!! We have each been married, had children, grandchildren, but never did our paths actually cross. Marcia told me via email that she was planning a trip from her home in Chicago to an island in Alaska where grizzly bears lived. She wanted to know whether she could stop by our house on the way to visit for a few days. We live in Washington state.

I said of course - come on over! And then I put the dates of her visit on my calendar. I didn't give it much thought until a week before she was to arrive, when she emailed me again to give me her flight arrival time and cell phone number. "Wow, she's really coming," I said to my husband, Jer. "I really do not know her at all. What if we don't get along?"

My husband and I discussed her upcoming visit. I realized I really wasn't worried about her coming. "If she wants to come and see you, it is meant to be," Jer said. "Trust to Intent (the cause behind all actions) that you and Marcia will connect in a meaningful way."

I agreed. Rather than feeling apprehensive, I was actualy looking forward to her visit. When the day arrived I picked her up from the airport shuttle with my grandchildren in tow. She was short with curly hair like me and completely without makeup of any kind - also like me. We went to a park so she could stretch her legs and the kids could play. As we walked along a path together, we were both feeling the pieces of our separate lives - so long apart - coming back together.

Marcia is a healer, trained in Healing Touch Therapy. She also studies with a Cherokee Shaman. While my path has been to study with east Indian holy men and women, the lessons we have been learning were basically the same. We were both actively pursuing a path of devotion and learning on the way to (hopefully!) enlightenment.

Marcia helped me to heal a nagging chronic injury to my feet. She held my grandson's energy while he underwent surgery to repair decay to his teeth, she taught my granddaughter how to make princesses out of Hollyhock flowers, she bought me the book "Animal Speaks", she went running with my husband, Jer. When she left three days later I could not imagine a time when we were not connected, when our lives were far apart.

I never met Marcia's husband - a Rabbi who died six years ago. I have never met her three children, her six grandchildren. She never met any of my children or grandchildren until she came for this three-day visit. It didn't matter. The family that we are both a part of pulled us back together, helped us reconnect.

We realized how similar our childhoods had been. Both of our mothers died when we were very young and both of our fathers died when we were teens. Marcia is six years older than I am, and she often spent the summers at our house with my older sister before I was born and when I was a baby. She had loving memories of my mother, the mother I lost when I was three.

The visit was a blessing to us both in so many ways. We regained a part of our past and enriched our present. If we never see each other again, we will be forever changed by this three-day slice of time spent together. On the shuttle back to SeaTac Airport, Marcia wrote to me: "I am feeling and thinking of our time together, which seems like it always was. I want to thank you...for the gift of who you are that allowed for the seamless relationship we had and have."

It is never too late to reconnect, to touch the life of someone we once knew and loved. Family can nurture us in all phases of our lives: as babies, children, young adults, crones. There are reasons we were born to our own particular families. We have lessons to learn, gifts to give and receive. I am fortunate to have such wonderful cousins on both sides of my family. Family endures, love endures, hope endures. And so it is.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Just What Do We Actually Deserve?

The other day I had a very intense discussion with my younger son, Gabriel. He is 27 and his older (and only) sibling, Joseph, is about to turn 32.

Gabriel just completed his 4th quarter at our local community college. He has plans to go on for a 4-year degree in computer science at a nearby university. This is nothing short of a miracle to me, since Gabriel dropped out of high school in his junior year. He got his GED, but that was all he was willing to do as far as his education was concerned. He also got married at 18 and was a father at 20. He and his wife are still together (they celebrated their 9th anniversay recently) and they now have two children.

Back to the intense discussion: I jokingly told Gabriel that Joseph was so worried that Gabriel was going to get his BA before he did, that he re-enrolled at University of Washington! Joseph has been going to college on and off since he graduated from high shcool. He has many credits and a few different majors and an AA degree but no 4-year degree. I guess sibling rivalry has its good points, if it inspires Joseph to finish his education along with Gabriel!

I thought the situation was humorous, but it touched off a long string of associations for Gabriel going back to when they were teens and I gave Joseph a car when he was 17. I didn't give one to Gabriel. Actually, my partner at the time bought one for Gabriel, but he put restrictions on the use of the car and Gabriel resented them so much that he eventually lost the car entirely. My partner ended up giving the car to Joseph who ran it into the ground.

Gabriel was so upset as he talked to me. "I deserved to have a car given to me just like Joseph did! You stayed with my dad until Joseph was grown up, but you didn't wait for ME to grow up before you separated. I deserved to have both of my parents as long as Joseph did. I live nearby and see you all the time (I take care of his children 3 days/week), but Joseph lives in Seattle and you hardly ever see him." Get the picture?

To my credit and Gabriel's, this phone discussion did not escalate into outright anger and harsh words. I knew he was upset and I saw it as an opportunity to help him work through his resentments and get to the unmet needs underneath. I kept my voice calm. I went back over the events and let him know how I remembered them. I told him I was sad that his father and I were unable to stay together until he grew up. And I talked about being able to move past old resentments, to try to understand that we - none of us - deserve anything to be given to us.

I was able to give Joseph my old car when he turned 17, but I was in a different place when Gabriel turned 16. My partner, Mark, wanted to give Gabriel a car before I felt he was ready. He thought that Gabriel would be able to earn more car priveleges, but that only made Gabriel angry and rebellious. He was hanging out with wild and dangerous kids. He lost interest in his studies, in his wrestling and soccer and baseball, and eventually dropped out of high school all together.

When Gabriel wanted to get married at 18 at first I was totally against the idea as you can imagine. But then I saw that he was craving some limits, some way out of the tailspin he found himself in. His girlfriend, Jackie, was very straight and innocent. She was also a hard worker and she had clear goals for herself and her family-to-be. She was able to give Gabriel the limits he would not accept from his father or from me, and a way out of the wild crowd he found himself in. And now, 9 years later, he is able to go back to school and study hard and get all A's.

When Gabriel heard that Joseph was horning in on his school experience, it triggered a lot of unfinished situraions and feelings. We were able to work through them together. Gabriel was able to hear me say to him that laying blame on others for his own decisions and actions is not an impeccable way to live; that our only true goal in my opinion is enlightenment, freedom from the circle of birth and death. Gabriel did not deserve a car just because his brother got one. He has his own karma, his own path to follow, his own lessons to learn.

I love both of my children and I know that they are very different. Hopefully I will be around for a while as they walk their dharma, their own unique path to wisdom and enlightenment and as I in turn walk mine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Children Need To Feel Safe

Last year my granddaughter, Crystal, went to Kindergarten. Her first day at school was also her first soccer practice, which took place a few hours later at the school's playground. She was already on sensory - or new people and place - overload when we walked across the street from my house to the school to meet her coach and her team mates.

Most of the other girls were taking this first practice in stride, playing on the grass or playground equipment and happily waiting for the instruction to begin. The coach and his assitant each had a little girl on the team. They started the girls playing a chase game and generally gettiing to know each other. Gradually they stared giving some rudimentary instruction.

The orther girls listened and responded to what the coach told them to do. But Crystal kept looking over at me and her mother and waving, as she jumped up and down and shot her hands into the air above her head. The coach noticed this jumping behavior and tried to engage Crystal's attention, but she could not listen to him at all. She had no idea what she was supposed to do or where she was supposed to go. She looked happy enough - for a jumping bean.

I particularly noted the way her hands shot into the air above her head, fingers splayed open, as if she was a conduit for some sort of electric charge. I had observed this behavior before when she was excited about something and wanted to get my attention, but never to this extreme. Later I shared this behavior with my cousin, Marcia, who is a Healing Touch Therapist. She told me that Crystal needed to know she was safe; that when she displayed this behavior she was trying to discharge the extra energy coursing through her body caused by the fear of a new situation and the inability to manage and control her world.

The other girls seemed more at peace with this situation, more able to take in the instruction and practice the new skills being taught. I realized that Crystal was just too overwhelmed to take in anything the coach said and that was ok. I had to struggle with my own need to have her be like everyone else, instead of the unique and special and sensitive child that she was.

My cousin taught me to say directly to Crystal or send her the message telepathically: "You are safe. I will keep you safe. I am here to help and support you." Now I offer that kind of loving support whenever I think of my grandchildren, whether they are with me or at home with their parents.

Recently I went to the park with Crystal. She would run around and play on the slide or climbing apparatus, then come running over to stand in front of me. "You are safe," I told her. "I will keep you safe." Then off she would run to play again.

You can read more of Saralee Sky's articles about parenting in her online newsletter, Nutsense, on her web site:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Children Learn When They're Ready

Recently I was with my grandchildren at the school playground across the street from my house. Crystal (6) and Jordan (4) rode their bikes over and were tearing around the basketball area. Jordan was riding his tricycle and I tried to encourage him to use his pedals instead of pushing it around with his feet on the ground. He would comply while I was watching, but soon go back to zooming around by pushing the bike with his feet on the ground. I had to admit he could go a lot faster his way, but I thought it was important for him to learn to ride the bike the "right" way. He disagreed.

Crystal meanwhile was riding all over the place on her two-wheeler, but she still had her training wheels on. I watched her taking sharp corners and pedaling very fast and decided it might be a good time for her to learn how to ride without the training wheels. "Would you like me to take off the training wheels?" I asked her. "I could go home and get a wrench."

"OK," she said.

I ran back home across the street, came right back over with a wrench and proceeded to take off the traning wheels as the kids both watched. "OK, Crystal, get on the bike and I'll hold it for you," I said. "I want to be sure your seat is high enough."

She shook her head "no".

"No? Why not? Just get on the bike and I'll hold it for you. I won't let go."

"Hm-mmm (no). " she shook her head again.

"You don't want to ride without your training wheels?" I asked. "Are you sure?"

She nodded her head "yes".

"Do you want me to put your training wheels back on?"

Again she nodded "yes". So I did. She started riding again and I was left to ponder what had just happened. She had taught me something. What, exactly, was it?

She was willing to let me remove the training wheels, but she was not ready to actually get on the bike and try to ride. Perhaps the process of removing the wheels showed her the possibility. Perhaps it was scary for her looking at the bike minus its little wheels. Perhps she was just not ready to try to ride without them.

Now my question is this: should I wait until she tells me she wants to try and ride without the training wheels? Should I ask her from time to time? And what about Jordan? Does he absolutely have to learn how to use his pedals? How does this child-centered learning actually work?

I read in my favorite magazine, Life Learning, that when we completely trust our children, they will learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it. I believe this yet at the same time it totally blows my mind. Totally.

More of Saralee Sky's articles appear in her free online parenting neswletter, Nutsense, on her website:

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I Love You, Nana!

Lately I have noticed something about my four-year-old grandson, Jordan. Whenever he does something he knows (or thinks) is wrong, he says quickly, "I love you, Nana!"

I might not even be paying attention, but when I hear those words, first I am disarmed and pleased and then I am suspicious. My first reaction is to say, "Thank you, Jordy, I love you, too." But now I also look around to see what may have been broken or spilled. Often he has done something he thinks I will not like, so he tries to divert my anger before I have a chance to react. Recently he had knocked some pictures and magnetic letters off the refrigerator. Hardly a cardinal sin. But he apparently figured that I would be displeased, so out came those tell-tale words, "I love you, Nana!"

I replied in my usual way, then looked for the damage. When I saw what it was, I told him, "You didn't do anything wrong, Jordan. It was an accident. Let's pick up the letters and pictures."

Still, it gave me pause. Jordan seems to know what makes me angry - or what he thinks will make me angry - and opts for damage control rather than denial of the crime. He is obviously afraid of my anger, my reprisal.

I have worked on my temper over the years, but still it erupts from time to time. This is the child who will most likely push the envelope until I get mad and yell. I never feel good after I get angry. I realize that I have diverted the attention away from my grandchild's behavior and on to the aftermath of my anger. I do not want my grandchildren to be afraid of me.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Drowning in Motherhood

As a brand new mother, I was overwhelmed for the first six months of my baby's life. It seemed like the only time I was able to sit still was when I nursed my baby. Gradually I was able to relax into the role (after the 3 month bout with colic) and even read a book while Joe was nursing. I would lift my eyes from the page and see his dark button eyes peering intently at me as he nursed. I had so much love for this little person who had such a huge presence, such great awareness, and who was so dependent upon me.

When Joe was four years old, I got pregnant with my second baby. I had been quite content with having only one child. We had settled into our routines and there was time every day for me to read or sew. I was also working part time. But time was slipping away and so my partner and I decided we had better have one more now or not at all. So Gabe was conceived.

Gabe was born in late April, three weeks early. Still, I was ready for him or so I thought. As the mother of two I felt more comfortable in my role. I was able to take care of both of my boys, pay attention to them, feed them, do their laundry etc. without the peroids of overwhelm or panic I experienced the first time around. The only problem was, I had no time left over for my self. No reading time, meditation time, daydream time. Someone always needed me. I was always holding one of the boys. I was actually tired of being touched all the time.

I felt like I was always tending to everyone else's needs and demands, and I had no time of my own. Where was Sara in all this? I was losing sight of my self. I was drowning in motherhood.

I do not mean to say that I resented my role as a mother, or that I resented my children (and my partner) for needing me as much as they did. I just felt like I was losing my Self as I tended to the needs of eveyone else. Learning to take some time for just me was very hard for me to do.

Recently a neighbor stopped by on a walk with her family. Her daughter is six and her son is one. Her husband was with them also. My friend said, "Shayna has her special time, Jared has his special time, my husband has his personal time, but where is Barbara's time? Where is the Me Time?"

I could sympathize as I watched them walk away. I had been there, too. We all feel like that at some point I am sure. What about mothers who have three children or four or five? Their Me Time is postponed even longer I suppose. At some point we all feel like we are drowning in motherhood.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Postscript to When Too Much Is Really Too Much

On Tuesday June 5th I went back to the ceramics shop to retrieve Crystal's unicorn and my sugar bowl, which were fired and ready to go home. They were beautiful! Crystal's unicorn was shiny and purple with a brown mane and golden horn. My sugar bowl was done in southwest shades of turquoise and orange.

I brought them home and called Crystal to tell her they were at my house. Later that day she and her family came over for a barbecue, along with other family members. I showed Crystal her unicorn and we put it up on a shelf to keep it safe. On Wednesday, June 6th, when Crystal came home from school, I asked her what she wanted to do with the unicorn. "I don't know," she answered.

"Would you like to give it to your teacher, Mrs. H.?"

"Yes!" she said immediately. We found a pretty gift bag to place it in, then Crystal set about making a card. She drew a picture of Mrs. H. on the cover, then told me what she wanted the card to say on the inside:

"Dear Mrs. H.
I hope you like the unicorn that I made for you. You are the best teacher in the whole world."
She signed the card "Love, Crystal" all by herself.

This morning (Thursday) Crystal's mother, Jackie, and Crystal went to school a little early to give the gift to Mrs. H. before the other children got to class. As soon as she saw it, Mrs. H. knew that it was the unicorn Crystal had made the day of the beach field trip, because she had read the story on this very blog! She was very touched and very pleased to receive such a heart-felt gift. It will be a fitting memento of her year as Crystal's Kindergarten teacher. Crystal has learned so much in her class, even though being in a classroom with lots of other children has been very difficult for this home loving, shy-in-groups child.

I am glad she chose to give this gift to her teacher. I think I will Mrs. H. as much as Crystal! And I wish she could see Crystal as I do: this wild, loud, funny, happy-go-lucky child, this shining light, full of beauty and wonder.

Read more of Saralee Sky's articles on parenting in her online newsletter, Nutsense, on her web site:

Friday, June 01, 2007

When Too Much Is Really Too Much

Yesterday I accompanied my six year old granddaughter, Crystal, on an all-day field trip with her Kindergarten class. We were all going to Marine Park - a local beach not far from the school. All would have been well, but I had to bring along Jordan, Crystal's four year old brother.

Crystal deeply resented Jordan coming to HER classroom prior to leaving for the trip. She was furious with him for playing with the toy cars while the teacher read them all a book during circle time. She did not want him getting in line or walking with the other kids in the class. The teacher wisely told Crystal she understood how hard it was to share her class with her younger brother, but this sympathy seemed to make Crystal even more upset.

When we all arrived at the beach, a very cold wind was blowing off the water toward the shore. Though it was warm everywhere else, it was cold at the beach. Crystal and Jordan did not have a jacket. Both were dressed for a warm early summer day. Crystal was angry and now she was cold. I gave Crystal my jacket and Jordan the beach towel and tried to get them to walk along the beach and explore tide pools, look for shells, watch the herons, the wind surfer - anything! But nothing would pull Crystal out of her angry, cold misery.

I called my son, Gabe - Crystal's and Jordan's father. I told him to come to the beach as soon as he could and bring jackets. He was 30 minutes away, so in the mean time I tried again to engage them in exploring the tide pools. Jordan was game, but Crystal was not. She followed along, however, because she didn't want to be left behind. We walked down near the water's edge where another parent was lifting rocks up to show the kids what was living beneath them. He lifted one rock and a bunch of hermit crabs stared runing this way and that, some tiny and some not so tiny.

That was it. Crystal became hysterical, wailing, "Nana, Nana, help!"

"They won't hurt you," I said. "See how tiny they are? They won't bite or pinch." But she was beyond reason at this point. She could handle no more surprises, no more cold, no more field trip and no more annoying little brother.

Luckily, soon after this event, her father showed up with warm jackets and her grandfather showed up to take Jordan off for the rest of the day. She huddled in her father's lap and would not talk to me or let me touch her. Gabe stayed through the picnic lunch, which the class ate in the sun sheltered from the wind behind the restroom building. Crystal gradually calmed down and warmed up.

The other children occasionally tried to come over to her and ask her to play, but she would not leave her father's lap. Eventually she consented to eat some lunch. After lunch Gabe left to go to his college class. I told Crystal she could do whatever she wanted. She elected to stay up on the sand far from the water (and the crabs). She made a sand castle and played with a few of the other girls in the class. I considered this a successful end to the field trip and asked the teacher for permission to leave early.

I took Crystal to one of our favorite places - a paint your own ceramics store. We each chose an item to paint. Crystal chose a unicorn and I chose a sugar bowl. We spent the next few hours painting in companionable silence, sharing colors and becoming friends again. Afterwards I took her to the grocery store and bought a cantalope - her favorite fruit. We took it home and she ate half of it, then retreated upstairs to play computer games on her favorite web site, Nick Jr.

She spent a few hours alone, with me checking in on her and sometimes watching her play a game. Jordan came back from his day with his grandfather and all was once again well. I worked hard to repair her day and our relationship. I knew I had pushed her too far with the hermit crabs. I told her that I loved her very much. When her mother came to pick her up that evening, Crystal told her that she had a good day!

I think we both learned from this experience. I learned that I have to respect her space and her moods and her energy flow. And Crystal? Her lessons are her lessons. You'll have to read her blog someday to find out! :)

You can read more of Saralee Sky's articles in her online newsletter, Nutsense, on her web site,

Saturday, May 26, 2007

How to Gift Your Children or Grandchildren

I was listening to NPR Weekend Edition Saturday and I heard the saxophonist, Joshua Redman, playing some songs and talking about his father, tenor saxophinist, Dewey Redman. Dewey came to play at a recent recording session with Joshua. When they were done, Dewey asked to play a song on his own, without Joshua. Since it was Joshua's album, it was a strange request. But Joshua said OK and left to get some coffee. When he returneed, his father was done. It only took one take and the name of the song was "GJ".

Joshua and his wife had recently had a baby, and this song was a gift to Dewey's grandson, Jaden. Dewey died shortly after the recording. This beautiful, soulful song will be a lasting legacy to his grandson. Jaden will grow up without knowing his grandfather, but he will have this very special gift, this song, written and performed just for him by this great Jazz musician.

After listening to this report, I started thinking about gifts we give to our children and our grandchildren. We want to be sure they have the best clothes, toys, books, furniture. Maybe one special toy or one special book will remain with them as they grow, but mostly they will grow out of the things we give them, unless we truly give them something of ourselves.

Who are you? What is special about you? What do you love to do? Believe in? Support? What kind of gift can you give to your children or grandchildren that says: "This is me. This is how I feel about you. This is what I want you to remember about me."?

Perhaps it will be a handmade quilt or doll house, a story you write, a picture you paint, a special memento from your own parents you pass on, a camping trip, an afternoon spent fishing, a walk in the woods. Whatever it is, I urge you to think about what you want your children to know about you or your grandchildren to remember about you. Give them gifts that tell them something about who you are, what you know, what you love.

Give them memories in the here and now. Today may be all we ever "have", but our todays are built upon the days that came before.

Read more of Saralee Sky's articles in Nutsense, her online newsletter devoted to parenting and located on her web site:

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Connection Between Pain and Anger

When I hurt myself accidentally (bump my head on an open cabinet door, stub my toe, bump my shin on a sharp corner), as soon as I feel the pain I also feel a wave of anger wash through me. I am furious at the object that hurt me and also at myself for being so careless.

When my grandson falls and hurts himself doing something I warned him not to do, my first reaction/emotion is also one of anger. He needs comforting and a bandaid and I force myself to give these things, but I am also angry at him and I cannot stop myself for telling him that I told him this would happen.

He has just learned a valuable lesson on his own. The consequences of his actions are clear. I do not need to ram it home. If I could just wait until later, when he is all better and calm, I could then say in a kinder tone of voice, "Now do you see why I didn't want you to run so fast on the sidewalk in those shoes?"

So what is it that links anger to pain so intensely for me? A past life experience? A childhood experience no longer conscious, but lurking in my subconscious, ready to leap out at the first painful opportunity? I do not yet know. I just know it is an inevitable process. If I can be still for a minute or so after I hurt myself, the anger will wash through me and dissipate. I know this, but I cannot always resist smacking the cupboard door or the offending piece of furniture, often resulting in more pain. At least this action usually brings me to my senses.

Read more of Saralee Sky's articles in her online newsletter, Nutsense, on her web site:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Children's Art - More Than It Seems

Recently I had a birthday. And a big birthday party! Two of my grandchildren were there, as well as other family and friends.

It was a rainy day, but in the evening, the sun shot through the clouds and a beautiful double rainbow appeared. I ran to get Jordan, my almost four year old grandson. I held him in my arms on the back deck while we looked at the arc of the rainbows.

This experience must have made a deep impression on Jordan. A few weeks later, he started drawing recognizable shapes. He drew a large headed person in the middle of the page, with a small circle at the top left and a backward "C" next to the circle. Then he drew a big line around the sides and top of the picture.

"Who is this person, Jordan?" I asked.

"Nana!" he said.

"And what is this circle?"

"That's the sun and the moon," he said, pointing to the small circle and the backward C. "And this is the rainbow from Nana's birthday." He pointed to the large rainbow-like line around the sides and top of the picture.

Now all of his pictures include the rainbow as well as the sun and moon. Sometimes he draws more people than just me, but always there is that rainbow, that promise. Children often include what they are thinking about or what's important to them in their art. It's a portal to their inner life. Pay attention!

You can read Saralee Sky's articles on parenting in her online newsletter, Nutsense, on

Friday, May 11, 2007

Why Pro-Choice is also Pro-Life

I had a dog who was half Golden Retriever and half Irish Setter named Lessa. We bred her with another Golden and she had a LOT of puppies - 14 to be exact.

She would allow 12 of them to nurse, but she would gently nose out of the way two of the puppies when they tried to push their way in to nurse. I watched her do this and would try and help the puppies find a tit as one of the other pups finished. Again, Lessa would gently nose these same two puppies out of the way. As hard as it was to watch this process, I realized that Lessa was doing what was best for her own body and the rest of the pups. She could only support and nourish 12 puppies and that was what she was going to do.

When a human woman gets pregnant, she must also make the decison about whether she is able to support and nourish this new life growing inside her. This can be a very hard - even harsh - decision, but it is what nature has given to the female of each species to do. We as women have the power to decide life or death for our unborn children. As hard as this is for some men and even some women to accept, this is our dharma, our path, our right.

To exercise our right to choose is to be pro-life. We are embracing our life as a woman as a womb-man. The woman that can nurture and sustain life is also the one who must be able to choose whether she is able to do so when the pregnancy occurs.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The way children learn a language.

My three year old grandson wanted to surprise me with something he was making out of blocks. He didn't want me to look at his creation until it was done, so he said to me,"Don't see at it."

I started thinking about his sentence construct. We don't usually "see at" something, we "look at" something. But was his sentence/grammar wrong? I guess so, but he was putting together two different ideas: he didn't want me to see what he was doing and he must have heard the term "look at" somewhere. He combined the two.

I chose not to correct him, but simply covered my eyes until he told me I could look - or see. I have learned that just by talking correctly to him he will learn by my example, rather than by constantly correcting him.

I read somewhere that children learn and store language in a different part of their brains when they are very young than when they are older. This explains why it is so hard to learn a new language as we grow. It is fun to watch him learn how to talk.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Some thoughts on Mother's Day and birthdays

I have always thought that the gifting procedure for Mother's Day and for birthdays should be reversed. In other words, on Mother's Day, I should be giving my children a gift to honor the fact that they made me a mother. And on my children's birthdays, they should be giving ME a gift to honor the fact that I gave birth to them and thus made it possible for them to actually have a birthday.

The gift of life is a gift that can never be truly gifted, truly understood, truly appreciated. Mothers hold a baby's life in their bodies and then in their hands. Slowly the child grows up and away from their mother and the letting go is also a precious gift.

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